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Men and women who have not been baptized are referred to as “catechumens” and enter the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This process has several stages of prayer and formation that culminate in the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Liturgy as the catechumen receives the three sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist.
Period of the Catechumenate
During this time, each individual is catechized while growing in his or her relationship with God. The Church describes this period in the following way, “The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher” (Ad gentes 14). This period does not occur for a specific amount of time, but according to each person’s progress.
Second Step: Election Or Enrollment Of Names
This is a liturgical rite where the godparents and the parish community confirm that the catechumen is ready for the sacraments of initiation. The catechumens request to participate in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist. After their names are enrolled they are called “the elect.” This usually occurs on the First Sunday of Lent.
Period Of Purification and Enlightenment
This final period, usually occurring in Lent, is a time of purification and enlightenment before the celebration at the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil liturgy. The elect prepare for the sacraments by intensifying their prayer and study while the parish community prays for them.
Third Step: Celebration Of The Sacraments Of Initiation
The elect become full members of the Catholic Church by receiving the sacraments of initiation. This liturgical rite usually occurs during the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil liturgy. Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystogogy After full reception into the Church, the individuals spend the Easter season receiving continued catechesis.