This Saturday the Catholic Church will welcome more new members. I don't know the exact number for the United States but I know our parish has 8 or 9 participants and a neighboring parish has 50!
Some will receive all three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. These individuals are now called the Elect or Catechumens.
Those who have already been baptized are called Candidates.
These catechumens and candidates have been preparing since early Fall in what is known as the RCIA-Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
This months long preparation entails much instruction and reflection on the part of the participants. There is so much to learn and this is not a step that is taken lightly.
Each catechumen and candidate has a sponsor who walks the journey with them and aids them in their preparation.
Baptism is the first step. As explained by Scott P. Richert, About.com Guide
"Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces:
- The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).
- The remission of all punishment that we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).
- The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the three theological virtues.
- Becoming a part of Christ.
- Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.
- Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace."
For Catholics baptized as infants, the next steps would be Reconciliation and Eucharist at around age 7 and then Confirmation in, or around, 9th grade.
For RCIA candidates and catechumens, however, the order is reversed.
After they are baptized, they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Again I turn to Scott P. Richert, About.com Guide
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists five effects of Confirmation:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [as sons of God] which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!";
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.
Because Confirmation perfects our baptism, we are obliged to receive it "in due time." Any Catholic who did not receive Confirmation at baptism or as part of his religious education during grade school or high school should contact a priest and arrange to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation."
These two Sacraments confer on the recipient's soul an indelible mark and are thus never repeated Sacraments. The Eucharist, on the other hand, is a Sacrament readily available and can be received daily (much to my delight).
In Holy Communion, we are eating the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, without which "you shall not have life in you" (John 6:53).
Receiving Holy Communion worthily brings us graces that affect us both spiritually and physically. Spiritually, our souls become more united to Christ, both through the graces we receive and through the change in our actions that those graces effect. Frequent Communion increases our love for God and for our neighbor, which expresses itself in action, which makes us more like Christ." (Scott P. Richert, About.com Guide)
To all those coming in the Church this Easter, I say, Welcome Home!