Sacraments of Initiation
Sacramental Norms and Policies of the Archdiocese of Washington, issued in 1995, address the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, Sunday Mass, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, Holy Orders and Funeral liturgies. For further information regarding the Sacramental Norms and Policies of the Archdiocese of Washington, contact the Office of Worship of the Archdiocese of Washington, 301-853-4594.
SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION
(Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist)
“The sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – lay the foundations of every Christian life.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1212
Sacrament of Baptism
Christian Initiation of Adults – RCIA.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) involves preparation for and celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, which manifests the intimate relation of these sacraments to one another. The primary focus of the RCIA is the Christian initiation of unbaptized adults. The Rite also provides for the initiation of unbaptized children of catechetical age, as well as for welcoming baptized Catholics and non-Catholics into full communion with the Church. Children who have reached the use of reason are considered for purposes of Christian initiation, to be adults.
RCIA consists of four distinct periods of formation: Period of Inquiry; Period of the Catechumenate; Period of Enlightenment and Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis. For more information on becoming Catholic, click here.
Christian Initiation of Children
Baptism of infants is to take place within the first few weeks after birth. The faith of parents who are Catholic, together with their intention to raise their child in that same Catholic faith, is a necessary prerequisite for celebrating this sacrament. The 1980 Instruction on Baptism and Canon Law both call for catechesis for parents and godparents regarding the responsibility they take upon themselves when they present their children for baptism.
Sacrament of Confirmation
In the Archdiocese of Washington, Confirmation is always celebrated within Mass to express more clearly the fundamental connection of this sacrament with the entirety of Christian initiation, which reaches its culmination in the Eucharist. Students in the Archdiocese of Washington are to be confirmed in the 7th or 8th grade. Adults who have not been confirmed should contact their parish priest in order to receive instruction. Confirmation for adults is celebrated annually in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on the Feast of Pentecost.
Sacrament of the Eucharist
The Eucharist is the sacrament in which Christian initiation reaches its culmination, for in and through this sacrament, Christians are fully joined to Christ. Therefore, individuals preparing to receive Holy Communion should be mindful to hold the Blessed Eucharist in highest honor and to reverence the Sacrament with the greatest adoration. Genuflections, respectful silence and other signs of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament are appropriate recognitions of God’s mysterious gift of Christ for us in this Sacrament.
The determination of readiness to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time is a primary responsibility of the pastor as well as of the child’s parents and/or guardian(s). They are to see to it that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared for and are nourished by Communion. Traditionally, children are prepared for reception of the Eucharist during second grade in their parish schools and CCD classes. Before receiving First Communion children first receive the Sacrament of Penance.
The Eucharistic Fast
The regulation for fasting is considered a means of spiritual preparation for receiving the Eucharist and a symbol of reverence for the sacrament. The Eucharistic Fast is limited to one hour before actually receiving the Eucharist. It pertains to all solid food and all drinks, except water. Taking medicine does not break the fast. The fast applies to priests who celebrate the Mass and by the faithful, regardless of what time of day the Mass is celebrated and Communion is received. Those who are sick, in hospitals – even if not confined to bed – and those caring for the sick, may receive communion even if they have taken food during the previous hour.