Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults:
J. Michael McMahon
Vatican Council II: Constitution on the
64. The catechumenate for adults,
divided into several stages, is to be restored and put into use at the
discretion of the local Ordinary. By this means the time of the
catechumenate, which is intended as a period of well-suited instruction,
may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive
intervals of time.
65. With art. 37–40 of this
Constitution as the norm, it is lawful in mission lands to allow,
besides what is part of Christian tradition, those initiation elements
in use among individual peoples, to the extent that such elements are
compatible with the Christian rite of initiation.
66. Both of the rites for the baptism
of adults are to be revised: not only the simpler rite, but also the
more solemn one, with proper attention to the restored catechumenate. A
special Mass “On the Occasion of a Baptism” is to be incorporated into
the Roman Missal.
Vatican Council II: Decree on the Church’s
13. …Under the movement of divine
grace the new convert sets out on a spiritual journey by means of which,
while already sharing through faith in the mystery of the death and resurrection, he passes from the old man to
the new man who has been made perfect in Christ (see Colossians 3:5–10;
Ephesians 4:20–24). This transition, which involves a progressive change
of outlook and morals, should be manifested in its social implications
and effected gradually during the period of the catechumenate ….
14. Those who through the Church have
accepted from the Father faith in Christ should be admitted to the
catechumenate by means of liturgical ceremonies. The catechumenate means
not simply a presentation of teachings and precepts, but a formation in
the whole of Christian life and a sufficiently prolonged period of
training; by these means the disciples will become bound to Christ as
their master. Catechumens should therefore be properly initiated into
the mystery of salvation and the practices of gospel living; by means of
sacred rites celebrated at successive times, they should be led
gradually into the life of faith, liturgy, and charity belonging to the
people of God.
Next, freed from the power of darkness, dying,
buried, and risen again together with Christ through the sacraments of
Christian initiation, they receive the Spirit of adoption of children,
and with the whole people of God celebrate the memorial of the Lord’s
death and resurrection.
There is a great need for a reform of the Lenten
and Easter liturgy so that it will be a spiritual preparation of the
catechumens for the celebration of the paschal mystery, the rites of
which will include their being reborn to Christ through baptism.
Christian initiation during the catechumenate is
not the concern of catechists or priests alone, but of the whole
community of believers and especially of godparents, so that from the
outset the catechumens will have a sense of being part of the people of
God. Moreover, because the Church’s life is apostolic, catechumens
should learn to take an active share in the evangelization and the
building up of the Church through the witness of their life and the
profession of their faith.
Finally, the new code of canon law should set out
clearly the juridic status of catechumens; they are already joined to
the Church, already part of Christ’s household, and are in many cases
already living a life of faith, hope, and charity.