Often referred to as "the catechumenate" or RCIA - is a period of inquiry and study about the Catholic Faith. It takes place in several stages, each celebrated and sanctified by its own rite. This step-by-step approach to initiation is based on the fact that conversion is a gradual process and a lifelong journey.
Prior to the 2nd Vatican Council, the initiation adults into the Catholic Church was a simple matter, done without much celebration. A person interested in becoming a Catholic would be instructed for anywhere from several weeks to two years by a parish priest. The candidate and the priest would meet in private or in "inquire" classes with other people preparing for Baptism. The text used during this study would be a catechism containing the doctrines of the Faith. Then, in a private ceremony, with only a few people present the candidates would receive the sacraments Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation. Sometimes these adults were confirmed at the same time as the school-aged children. There were no stages of initiation.
The Second Council called for a renewal in the way adults become Catholics. The Council recognized initiation as a process - a process requiring time and involving the entire Catholic community. Thus the bishops of Vatican II called for a revision of the rite of Baptism for adults and for the restoration of the catechumenate.
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