Sacraments of Initiation
Part 3 The Rite for Adults and Children

Chapter i39 The Period of Mystagogia

Preliminary Questions


50 Days of Easter

Rites During the Period of Mystagogia

Lectionary: Mass

Lectionary: Hours

RCIA Schedule by an Experienced DRE

Post RCIA Dropout

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Is the period of Mystagogia really necessary and/or useful?  What of those who say:  "Now that I am Baptized, there is no need to attend more meetings."   Does you parish have a period of Mystagogia for neophytes? 

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Daniel Connors. Celebrating the Fifty Days of Easter, Mystic CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1990. [This is a clear, concise, usable tool to help guide everyone in the parish through the Easter Season. The reflections may be used by neophytes and parishioners at various stages of their journey. Each weekday reflection is based on the readings and liturgical prayers for the coming Sunday. These meditations can be a means of drawing persons deeper into the paschal mystery.]

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50 Days of Easter

1. Purpose: continuing new communion with Church and Eucharist

2. Pastoral Care: do not abandon them

3. Continuing Post-Baptismal Catechesis

4. Full Experience

a. It's different now that you are doing it
b. Honeymoon period

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Rites During the Period of Mystagogia

1. Bishop

a. Meeting with Bishop
b. Eucharist with Diocesan Church -- Sense of "larger" Church
c. Tour of Cathedral and Chancery

2. Party

a. Postnatal depression
b. Tell City Band Victory Party -- you can't appreciate the party unless you have suffered through the practices. You can't appreciate the resurrection (transfiguration) unless you have experienced the crucifixion.

3. Reconciliation

4. Anointing the Sick

5. Ministry assignments

6. Closure

a. Testimonies
b. Pentecost Vespers

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Lectionary: Mass

1. Acts of the Apostles

2. Gospels:

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Lectionary: Hours

1. St. Ambrose. Bishop of Milan. 339-397. [Elected bishop in 374 while still a catechumen.] Treatise: On the Mysteries. See Liturgy of the Hours, Reading II, Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time.

a. Sunday, Catechesis on the rites preceding baptism
b. Monday, Born again of water and Spirit
c. Tuesday, Type and Archetype
d. Wednesday, Water and Spirit
e. Thursday, Instruction on the post baptismal rites
f.  Friday, To the newly baptized on the Eucharist
g. Saturday, The sacrament that you receive is effected by the words of Christ. Moses put wood in the water to make it sweet. Cross of Christ makes water effective. 3 give witness Water, blood (cross), Spirit.

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RCIA Schedule by An Experienced DRE

INQUIRY Stage (Information Period)  I have found that with the other things going on during the course of the year I have the possibility to have about 25 meetings maximum.  During this first period I try to give basic information -- and tie it as much as possible to the liturgical year and feasts that the parish is celebrating, e.g. Immaculate Conception and Christmas, etc.)

First gathering (use Catholic Update Video "Adult Baptism")
What do Catholics Believe?
What is Mass?
The Bible
Saints and Mary (near Dec. 8)
Tour of Church
Who's who in the Church
Liturgical Year
Who Is Jesus Christ (prior to Christmas)

CATECHUMENATE Stage (Formation Period)  I call this the "formation period" because in addition to information I want to move to "formation" -- conversion, prayer, interior life, etc.

Sacraments in general
Sacraments of Initiation
Sacraments of Healing
Sacraments of Service
Morality: Grace and Sin
Early Church (Acts)
Social Justice

CONVERSION (Lent) Stage (Transformation Period)  I call this the "transformation period" because I look upon Lent as their "retreat before baptism"  and we concentrate on prayer and union with God.

Prayer (what, where, when, how to pray)
What is Lent?
Evening Praise with Anointing
Evening Praise with Creed
Evening Praise with Our Father
Holy Week Explanation
Candidates experience Reconciliation
Retreat on Holy Saturday Morning followed by practice

MYSTAGOGY Stage (Transition Period)  During this time I want to help them transition from the small group to the larger parish community.

Gatherings as a support group
Welcome Meal

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Post RCIA Dropout

Regarding the dropout rate following the RCIA -- Some studies (c. 2008)  show that the dropout rate is as high as 50%!  (Studies also show that there is also a very high dropout rate following ordination to the priesthood, but that is a different -- though very interesting - question.)  Note: More recent studies [c.2018] show that the dropout rate is not that high. See for example

Even if the dropout rate is not as high as 50% I believe that it is important that we examine, as best we can, the reasons for this phenomena. 

From the best studies that I have read, the authors seem to indicate that the principal cause is this: during the RCIA there is a great "sense of being paid attention to" and a "sense of "community" whereas following the initiation sacraments the neophytes are thrown in with the rest of the parish and are shown very little individual attention; and in many parishes there is very little (if any) "feeling of community." 

I believe this is something we must all be attentive to even if we are not in charge of formation programs in a parish.  Each of us must be responsible for building that "sense of community" which attracts and keeps new members.

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To Think About

1.  The RCIA "Process"

Frequently we hear the phrase "the RCIA process." [You have probably read it in the assignment posting. Perhaps you have used this phrase yourself; I know that I have.]  It is important to know that the RCIA is not a process.

When we pronounce the title in full [instead of the acronym RCIA] and speak of The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, we realize that the noun is "Rite."   The RCIA is a rite -- liturgical prayers and actions which accompany one's faith journey during their conversion process.    As Aidan Kavanagh has so aptly said:  The RCIA are "conversion therapy."   The RCIA are therapeutic rituals intended accompany conversion. 

(Evidently a faith community [parish] will want to have a "process" or "program" in place for celebrating these rites with the converts:  a program which will include formational, intellectual, and ministerial elements besides these ritual elements.)

2.  Converts and Conversion

Top of the iceberg -- Definition of Terms  

Convert   The National Statutes for the Catechumenate approved by the USCCB on November 11, 1986 state: The term "convert" should be reserved strictly for those converted from unbelief to Christian belief and never used of those baptized Christians who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. (National Statutes for the Catechumenate, 2.)

Catechumen   A person admitted to the catechumenate, one seeking formal entry into the Church. The National Statutes for the Catechumenate approved by the NCCB on November 11, 1986 state: The term "catechumen" should be strictly reserved for the unbaptized who have been admitted into the order of catechumens.  (National Statutes for the Catechumenate, 2.)

Under the iceberg -- Unconscious Attitudes

How we use the words convert and catechumen is important because of what they might tell us regarding our un-articulated attitudes and understandings.  Does our use of the word "convert" when speaking of those who are validly baptized but who are not Roman Catholic imply that we do not really believe that non-Roman Baptism is "real Baptism" and therefore people who are baptized with this "fake baptism" are not really Christian?   We would never, of course, think this "consciously" (on top of the iceberg) but what attitude does it reflect? 

This reminds me of the old joke about the Lutheran couple who died and went to heaven. St. Peter was giving them a quick tour of the various areas and suburbs where they might want to have their heavenly mansion.  As St. Peter was showing them around heaven, they frequently caught sight of a big wall that seemed to enclose one section of the heavenly Jerusalem.  Curious about this, they ask St. Peter: "What's behind that wall?"  St. Peter smiled and replied, "Oh, that's where the Catholics live.  They believe that they are the only ones up here."

On the other hand, if we truly believe that there is one baptism which unites us to the Body of Christ, we will never call a Christian who comes into full communion with the Catholic Church a "convert."

We might say that we are simply using the word in a different sense and that in our heart we do not intend to imply that they are in need of "conversion."  I remember one day a student alerted me to the fact that I had failed to use gender inclusive language.  I said: "Even though I may not always speak correctly, I certainly believe in gender equality."  The student said to me: "If it's not on your lips, it's not in your heart!"

3.  Converts and Candidates

Many parishes run one program for both the baptized and the non-baptized who are seeking to become Roman Catholics.  The non-baptized are called "Catechumens" and receive the water bath at the Easter Vigil, but for the most part, everything else is the same for the two groups.   Consider these two scenarios.

Scenario One: Betty Johnson  Betty Johnson joins St. Anthony Parish. 

During the 10 o'clock Sunday morning Mass on October 14, at the conclusion of my homily, I say to the congregation: "Mrs. Betty Johnson has been living the Christian life for many years and for the past few months she has been praying with us here at St. Anthony's.  She has expressed her desire to formally join our parish and will do so this morning."  I say to Betty:  "Betty, please stand."  (She stands in place.)  "Betty do you wish to join our parish and to become a member of the Catholic Church?"  Betty says: "I do."  I say to the congregation:  "Let us all stand and with Betty profess our Catholic faith.  We believe in one God..."  When the creed is finished, I ask:  "Betty do you believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church beliefs, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God?"  Betty replies:  "I do." "Betty I welcome you into the Catholic Church.  The members of St. Anthony Parish look forward to sharing the Body and Blood of the Lord at this table today and in the years to come."  (The parish gives their approval  with applause.) 

In the General Intercessions which follow, mention is made of the Methodist Community which for many years nurtured Mrs. Johnson's faith, for example:  "We pray for all of the members of the Methodist Communion.  May the Holy Spirit strength of them that they may continue to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and to serve the poor, we pray to the Lord." 

At the kiss of peace, I leave the altar, go to Mrs. Johnson and give her the kiss of peace, as do several other members of the parish community.  At Communion time,  Mrs. Johnson comes to the altar to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord; the distribution of Holy Communion continues as usual.  Friends greet Betty after Mass.

[The whole process takes 30 minutes.]

Scenario Two:  John Sack  John Sack joins St. Paul Parish

Mr. John Sack has been living the Christian life for many years.  He was baptized Lutheran.  Fifteen years ago he married his wife Maria (a Catholic) in the Catholic Church and since that time has been weekly attended Sunday Mass with Maria and their family.  All of the children had been baptized in the Catholic Church and have been raised Catholic.  Now, John wishes to enter into Full Communion with the Catholic Church.  He speaks to me, the pastor, and I send him to the parish DRE, who gives him a schedule for the RCIA process.  Next fall he joins with the inquirers and attends the weekly sessions of Catholic instruction.  In December during Mass he signs a paper along with other candidates and catechumens stating his intention to enter fully into the Catholic Church.  On the first Sunday of Lent, he drives the three hours with the catechumens to the cathedral for the Rite of Election.  At the Easter Vigil he joins with the catechumens and, after their baptism, he received with them the Sacrament of Confirmation (he had been Confirmed once as a Lutheran) and receives Holy Communion for the first time (licitly) in the Catholic Church. 

[The whole process takes about a year.]

Most parishes employ "Scenario Two"   Have you ever seen "Scenario One"?   I celebrated it in a parish a few weeks ago.

Rite for the Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church

Note that the very first paragraph of the Rite for the Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church states:

473.  This is the liturgical rite by which a person born and baptized in a separated ecclesial community is received, according to the Latin rite, into so full communion of the Catholic Church.  The rite is so arranged that no greater burden than necessary (see Acts 15:28) is required for the establishment of community and unity.  [Acts 15:28  "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials."]

Which of the two scenarios above (Betty Johnson or John Sack) imposes "no greater burden than necessary" on the one coming into full communion?   If you answer that scenario one is closer to "what has seemed good to the Holy Spirit" why then do most parishes employ scenario two.  I do not mean this as a "rhetorical question."  It is a question you should be able to answer.

4.  Knowing or Doing

Is Christianity more about "knowing" or "doing"?  Is it a matter of intellect or a matter of will?  Of course it is both.  But it seems that today we are heavy on the "knowing" side of the balance whereas Jesus was big on the "doing" side.

Each period and stage of the faith journey has the following four components:

1. The Intellectual Component.  To know what Catholics know.  Most important: to know Jesus.  Scripture is the basic text (lectionary based catechesis).
2. The Moral Component.  To act as Catholics act.  Implications of knowing Jesus.
3. The Liturgical Component.  To pray as Catholics pray.  Implications of ritual prayer
4. The Ministerial Component.  To evangelize as Catholics evangelize.  Baptism is the primary sacrament of ministry

When we examine the programs which parishes employ to bring new members into the faith, do we find that the major emphasis is on the "intellectual component"?   What language is employed?  (e.g. do we speak of "classes" and "lessons" etc.?) 

Is the reason that we have baptized Christians participate in the "catechumenate classes"  is because they have to know Catholic teaching before they can be Catholic?

Jesus, on the other hand, seems to be big on the "doing" side.  "I was hungry and you gave me food..."   Do we put as much emphasis on living as Jesus wants us to live as e put on "knowing doctrine."   How much of our preparation time is spent on "conversion"?   [And we might ask:  "Who needs this more, the Candidates and Catechumens, or the Catholics in the pews?"]

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 04/26/18 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at