The period of inquiry, also known as the period of evangelization and precatechumenate, is a time to ask questions and become familiar with Gospel values. The period of inquiry has no fixed duration and structure, but rather is tailored to the needs of those being drawn into the mystery of God's love. This is a period in which the beginnings of the spiritual life and the fundamentals of Christian teaching take root, leading to a committment to change one's life by entering into relationship with God in Christ (RCIA, 42).
Catechumens are those who, "after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion" (RCIA, 1). Catechumens are those who have not been baptized; having both "undergone a conversion in mind and in action and...developed a sufficient acquaintance with Christian teaching as well as a spirit of faith and charity," (RCIA, 120) the Catechumens will be initiated into the Body of Christ with the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist.
Candidates for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church are those who have been baptized in other Christian denominations and are seeking communion and unity with the Catholic Church. Having already been incorporated into the Body of Christ by virtue of their baptism, both doctrinal and spiritual preparation guide candidates "to deepen an inner adherence to the Church, where he or she will find the fullness of his or her baptism" (RCIA, 477).
The Period of Mystagogy
In the ancient church the period of postbaptismal catechesis or mystagogy was the central time for those who had been baptized to learn about the faith. "This is a time for the community and the neophytes together to grow in deepening their grasp of the paschal mystery and in making it part of their lives through meditation on the Gospel, sharing in the eucharist, and doing works of charity" (RCIA, 244). Neophytes—those who have been baptized—and those received into the Church continue to meet and reflect on their "new, personal experience of the sacraments and of the community" (RCIA, 246).