The Period of Inquiry
This is a time of introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ and of reflection on one's own life in the light of the values of the reign of God. It is an unstructured time of no fixed duration for questions and an opportunity for the beginnings of Christian faith.
Period of Inquiry has as its purpose a time:
During this period, some may decide that this is not the right time for them to consider membership in the Catholic Church, either because of their own life circumstances or because they feel some other Tradition is better for them.
Acceptance into the Order of Catechumen
Those who profess their faith in Jesus Christ and sincerely desire to enter the church and celebrate with the worshiping assembly begin their journey of faith. They accept the way of Jesus, receive the sign of the cross of Christ and join in the liturgy of the word of God.
Period of the Catechumenate
Along with their sponsors for the journey, catechumens celebrate the liturgy of the word each Sunday, receive anointings, participate in prayers of faith and blessing and take part in the mission of the church to the world. During these months or years in the catechumenate, catechumen discover the love and power of God in their lives and in the church.
Election or Enrollment of Names
This is the liturgical rite, usually celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent in the cathedral of the dioceses, in which the bishop formally acknowledges the readiness of the catechumen and calls them to the sacraments of initiation. Catechumen respond by expressing their desire for these sacraments, and are now referred to as the Elect of God.
Period of Purification & Enlightenment
Usually during the Lenten season preceding the celebration of initiation at the Easter Vigil, this is a time of intense immediate preparation. Centered on the word of God, creed, Lord's Prayer and evangelical scrutinies, the Elect experience the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in their own lives.
Celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation
The Elect celebrate the initiation Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist ordinarily at the Easter Vigil. The waters of baptism put to death the old person of sin and give birth to the new person in Christ. Anointing with sacred chrism seals and strengthens the newly-baptized Christian. Faithful and active participation at the eucharistic table of the Lord as apostles and witnesses is the goal of Christian initiation and constitutes full membership in the church. The Candidates (those already Baptized in another Christian Tradition) make a public Profession of Faith and celebrate the intiation Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. Candidates that have been in formation in the months immediately preceeding the Easter Vigil may be initiated at the Vigil along with the Elect, but may also enter the Church at various times throughout the year - remember, everyone's journey of faith is different.
Period of Mystagogy
Mystagogy is the 50-day Eastertide following the celebration of Christian initiation. Newly-baptized persons receive sacramental catechesis and participate fully with the faithful in the eucharistic life and in the mission of the church for justice and peace. A program of Christian formation and incorporation into the full life of the Christian community assists the newly-baptized persons until their anniversary of initiation. This period reminds everyone that growth in faith is ongoing and lifelong.
The Period of Mystagogy lasts from Easter Sunday until the completion of the Easter season, fifty days later on Pentecost Sunday and completes the initiation process. Those who have just shared in the sacraments of initiation are now called Neophytes and during this period of Easter joy they reflect on what they have just gone through and look to the future as to how they can now share in the mission of Christ who came to bring salvation and life to the whole world. This period of time reminds the whole church that life in Christ constantly calls us to grow and to look for new ways to live the life of grace, personally and together.