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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Adult Catechumenate


Maître de Hoo
Baptême de catéchumènes
From The Béthune Book of Hours
1430 - 1435
Paint on parchment
18 cm x 13.3 cm
Ms69-folio85
Musée Condé, Chantilly



Girolamo Genga 1476 - 1551
St Augustine baptises the catechumens
1516-1518
Oil on wood panel
91,7 cm x 49,5 cm
Accademia Carrara - Museo, Bergamo

Yesterday by accident I was able to attend one of the two days given over at Westminster Cathedral to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Over the weekend 712 people from 119 parishes were welcomed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Auxiliary Bishops, along with four Episcopal Vicars and many Deans from the Diocese

Here are some of the photographs of the occasion







It is an unusual rite but yesterday`s ceremony was a joyful one at which to be present and I was glad to have been there

There were so many people from all different backgrounds and ways of life

The singing was of course excellent as usual

It is an old and antique rite and procedure which fell into disuse but was only revived again at the insistence of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council

In  Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Council stated:
"64. The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored and to be taken into use at the discretion of the local ordinary. By this, means the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time. 
65. In mission lands it is found that some of the peoples already make use of initiation rites. Elements from these, when capable of being adapted to Christian ritual, may be admitted along with those already found in Christian tradition, according to the norm laid down in Art. 37-40, of this Constitution. 
66. Both the rites for the baptism of adults are to be revised: not only the simpler rite, but also the more solemn one, which must take into account the restored catechumenate. A special Mass "for the conferring of baptism" is to be inserted into the Roman Missal."

The new rite was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1972: RCIA: Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, Rite of Christian Initiations of Adults 

In his Doctoral Thesis, Dr David  Andrew  Pitt researched and wrote about what happened between 1964 and 1972. There are three volumes of his thesis presented to Notre Dame University, Indiana: Revising the Rite of Adult Initiation: The Structural Reform of the Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, Ordo Catechumenatus per Gradus Dispositus, 1964-1972

They are here

Of special importance in the process of revision has been the work of Abbé Louis Duchesne  and 20th century French and other Northern Western European theologians 

In particular, Balthasar  Fischer,  “The  Rite  of  Christian  Initiation  of  Adults:  Rediscovery  and  New Beginnings,” Worship 64 (1990), 102 said of the new approach and rite:
"it was progress in patristic studies which enabled the Second Vatican Council to  take such a radical approach to the catechumenate, namely, the restoration of the  ancient pattern as it was first set out in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus in the first decades of the third century"
The prototype was "tested" in about fifty "sites" in: Algeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo, Upper Volta, Rwanda, France, Belgium, Quebec, Japan and  the United States

Perhaps it will be looked at again in the forthcoming Synod of Bishops as part of the increased effort towards evangelisation