Many people wanting to becoming Catholic are often surprised that it can take a year or more. In my former denomination, it was very different. The way one became a Christian was, at the end of any given Church service, the pastor would ask people to bow their heads and close their eyes. He would then ask whoever wanted to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior to raise their hand and then repeat a prayer after him. That was it.
Those leaders can be lauded for their desire for evangelism, but the lack of personal engagement with the one responding to Jesus leaves much to be desired. If seekers are given a little Jesus with no commitment expected, it can be like a spiritual blind date: it might work out, but you do not really know what you’re getting into. When properly run, the RCIA process is specifically designed to help lead people to a real, stable relationship with Jesus that will last. To help one understand why RCIA takes time, I will demonstrate how the RCIA process mirrors a healthy dating relationship that culminates in marriage.
Any healthy relationship moves through several stages from the first meeting to the wedding night. The same is true with coming to salvation in Jesus Christ. There are distinct steps that prepare for and allow a person to develop a genuine relationship with Jesus. Wanting to reclaim this process, which was present in the early Church but had fallen into disuse, the Second Vatican Council stated, “The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 64). The general parallel is as follows.