Why is RCIA so important? The GDC suggests that the way we form newcomers to the faith is the “inspiration” for the faith formation of believers. That doesn’t mean that RCIA is the model for everything catechetical. But inspiration suggests that RCIA energizes and informs other methods of catechesis.
To begin with, an interesting parallel is drawn. Remember missio ad gentes from earlier in this document? The emphasis on “to the peoples?” The Lord’s Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 applies not only to the non-believing peoples of the world, but also to the simple Christian witness given to one’s neighbors and ordinary contacts in the world.
In the same way the RCIA with a focus on gradual conversion, divine revelation through Scripture, liturgy and the spiritual life, etc., is a model of faith formation and catechesis for believers.
90. Given that the missio ad gentes is the paradigm of all the Church’s missionary activity, the baptismal catechumenate, which is joined to it, is the model of its catechizing activity. (288) It is therefore helpful to underline those elements of the catechumenate which must inspire contemporary catechesis and its significance.
By way of premise, however, it must be said that there is a fundamental difference between catechumens those being catechized, (289) between the pre-baptismal catechesis and the post-baptismal catechesis, which is respectively imparted to them. The latter derives from the sacraments of initiation which were received as infants, “who have been already introduced into the Church and have been made (children) of God by means of Baptism. The basis of their conversion is the Baptism which they have already received and whose power they must develop”. (290)
This is a good principle: baptism as an undeveloped “power,” rather than a membership card or a diploma.
(288) Cf. 1977 Synod of Bishops, Message to the People of God, 8; Evangelii Nuntiandi 44; Christifedeles Laici 61.
(289) In this (GDC) the expressions ‘catechumens’ and ‘those being catechized’ are used to make this distinction. For its part canon law 204-206, notes the different ways by which catechumens and the Christian faithful have union with the Church.
(290) RCIA 295. The same Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, chap. 4, ponders the question of those baptized adults who need initiatory catechesis. Catechesi Tradendae 44 specifies the diverse circumstances in which this catechesis may be deemed necessary.