None of us would deny that there are many longings within our own hearts and that from time to time some may even be fulfilled. But very often, despite all our efforts and life’s good fortune, we still feel disconnected. We continue to search for life’s true meaning. We struggle with loneliness. We want to feel that we belong. Our need for acceptance and friendship can be enormous. So we look around and begin to explore. We find ourselves making acquaintances. We talk with them and little by little we begin to reveal who we are. After a while, an acquaintance becomes our friend and then we know exactly with whom we want to spend our time. This natural and common human experience provides the setting for the first step of the RCIA process.
During the inquiry period, the parishioners of the Catholic family share their own faith stories as they listen to the journeys, questions and hopes of those who have come to inquire about the Church. Through this exchange, the church shares its life story – its traditions, people and history. This sharing and exchange of personal experiences leads the inquirer to discover similarities between his or her own story and and the story of Jesus and the Church. This first step of the RCIA is a time of unhurried reflection and discovery. Each Inquirer is a unique individual and must journey at his or her own pace.
All of us know that personal relationships don’t just happen. They usually grow out of informal and casual encounters. Maybe it’s the warm smile or the way our friend really listens that draws us together. Whatever it is, we find that we want to spend a lot of time with that person in order to share more about ourselves, and because we just plain feel better being around that person. A good example of this type of relationship becomes very apparent in the lives of a man and a woman who find attractive qualities in each other and begin dating. Their desire to know each other leads them to spend much time together. The day may come when their love leads them to tell others of their deepening commitment by announcing their engagement.
In a similar way, in the RCIA process, we may say that Inquirers begin to discern in the Catholic tradition an experience of faith that is attractive and personally meaningful. When this happens, they begin to desire to belong formally to the family of Catholic believers. At this point, members of the RCIA team discern with the Inquirers their readiness to enter the second step of the RCIA process in which they become Catechumens.