As part of the St. Joseph School curriculum, students in grade two are prepared to receive the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation; students in grades seven and eight are prepared to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Throughout the school year, each Catholic student beyond grade two has the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Penance. Parents are reminded of their responsibility to ensure more frequent reception of this sacrament.
[visual reference RCIA ritual and sacrament flowchart in left margin]
Peace and good! As members of Saint Joseph’s Parish and School it is our privilege to be a part of the Catholic Church’s mission by sharing the Gospel message of Jesus with others in the hope that they may “have fellowship with us” through faith and the reception of the sacraments “that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:3,4).
For many of us “Cradle Catholics” we came into the Church through the waters of Baptism and the faith of our parents and godparents. Even though as infants we did not as yet have faith, our parents promised to teach us about Jesus and His Church in the home so that one day we would say “Yes” when we became older. Our journey of faith was then actualized when we reached the age of reason, which is 7 years old or 2nd grade, having received First Penance and First Holy Communion. Further still, as we entered our early teenage years (8
grade in our diocese) we again were strengthened in our faith by the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is the usual order and manner many “Cradle Catholic” experience as the normative way of receiving the sacraments.
However there is another way or tract by which many who come into the Church as adults receive the sacraments. This way is known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA. The Church considers those to be adults who have reached the age of reason, which again is 7 years old or older, since they now are capable of comprehending and freely accepting the faith. It is for this reason that, unlike infant baptism, these individuals are to be properly instructed prior to being baptized since it is they, and not their parents or godparents, who must give their assent to the faith.
Additionally for adults, since the Second Vatican Council, the bishops have restored the more ancient manner of sacramental reception as they originally were administered during the first centuries of the early Church. This original order, still practiced by both the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, is for one to be baptized and immediately afterward confirmed and receive the Eucharist. Thus, the manner of receiving the three Sacraments of Initiation in this particular order and all at the same time is far from being a novelty but in fact pre-dates the way “Cradle Catholic” have been receiving them.
As for those who were baptized in a non-Catholic Christian tradition (i.e. Protestants) and who wish to become Catholic; they are received into the Church in a similar manner as those adults previously mentioned. However since they have been properly baptized and are already Christians with us; they cannot be baptized again. Instead these candidates would first avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance in preparation to receiving the other sacraments. Then before a priest, they would be received into full communion into the Catholic Church through a “Profession of Faith,” and immediately afterwards complete their Christian Initiation by receiving the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion like those for adult baptism. It is of such importance that they receive the sacraments in the proper order that the U.S. bishops have explicitly stated, "The confirmation of such candidates for reception should not be deferred, nor should they be admitted to the Eucharist until they are confirmed" (RCIA, National Statutes for the Catechumenate, no. 35).
All things considered it is our sincere hope that this memo has been of some help in explaining and clarifying how the Church administers the sacraments through the RCIA process. Working together in joy let us continue to share our faith with the young people entrusted into our care as they prepare to meet Jesus in the sacraments.