Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, adults who wanted to join the Catholic Church went through six weeks of "convert instructions" and were baptized quietly on a Sunday afternoon in a dark church with a few relatives present, two of whom probably served as godparents. A short time later, perhaps the following Sunday, the new converts received their First Communion, but probably with little attention to the fact that they were joining the community at the Table of the Lord. Confirmation was left until the next visit of the bishop.


Since 1972, that approach to adult Baptism has changed radically, thanks to the revised Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA, for short). In this Catholic Update, we will look carefully at the RCIA to get a fuller understanding of the whole process by which today's Church brings new members into it's communal life.


The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is not a single ritual, but is a formation program. That means it has elements of teaching and practice blended together, along with reflection on your progress and prayer. RCIA has catechesis, which means teaching about the Church. This catechesis explains the dogmas of the Church and why they are required for belief.


The process also includes practicing being a Catholic. Candidates attend Mass, and learn how to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. They are generally introduced into the various ministries that lay people do in the Church, with a view toward helping them choose one in which to participate.


RCIA at Star of the Sea in Sausalito allows those who are interested to explore the possibility of coming closer to God and to the Catholic Church. In particular, it is a program designed to help people inquire into spiritual truth and to enter the Church through Baptism or to continue their progress in receiving the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation.


This is a program that looks at the Catholic Church's teachings on such topics as Who is God?, Who is Jesus?, What is the meaning of the mystical body of Christ?, What are the Sacraments? and how do they enrich our lives as people?


For those who are curious or are searching or for those who have been in church for a short while, perhaps as young people and then lost their connection, this is an excellent primer on what it means to have a relationship with a God of love who is there for us in our joys, our sorrows and our deepest times of need.