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Congregation for the Clergy
General Directory for Catechesis

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    • CHAPTER III The nature, object and the duties of catechesis
        • The baptismal catechumenate: structure and progression
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The baptismal catechumenate: structure and progression

88. Faith, moved by divine grace and cultivated by the action of the Church, undergoes a process of maturation. Catechesis, which is at the service of this growth, is also a gradual activity. "Good catechesis is always done in steps". (279) In the baptismal catechumenate, formation is articulated in four stages:

the pre-catechumenate, (280) characterized as the locus of first evangelization leading to conversion and where the kerygma of the primary proclamation is explained;

the catechumenate, (281) properly speaking, the context of integral catechesis beginning with "the handing on of the Gospels"; (282)

– a time of purification and illumination (283) which affords a more intense preparation for the sacraments of initiation and in which the "the handing on of the Creed" (284) and "the handing on of the Lord's Prayer" take place; (285)

– a time of mystagogy, (286) characterized by the experience of the sacraments and entry into the community.

89. These stages, which reflect the wisdom of the great catechumenal tradition, also inspire the gradual nature of catechesis. (287) In the patristic period properly, catechumenal formation was realized through biblical catechesis, based on recounting the history of salvation; immediate preparation for Baptism by doctrinal catechesis, explaining the Creed and the Our Father which had just been handed on, together with their moral implications; and through the phase following the sacraments of initiation, a period of mystagogical catechesis which help the newly baptized to interiorize these sacraments and incorporate themselves into the community. This patristic concept continues to illuminate the present catechumenate and initiatory catechesis itself. This latter, in so far as it accompanies the process of conversion, is essentially gradual and, in so far as it is at the service of one who has decided to follow Christ, it is eminently christocentric.

279) Cf. RCIA 19.

280) RCIA 9-13.

281) RCIA 14-20; 68-72; 98-105.

282) RCIA 93; cf. MPD 8c.

283) RCIA 21-26; 133-142; 152-159.

284) RCIA 25 and 183-187.

285) RCIA 25 and 188-192.

286) RCIA 37-40; 35-239.

287) This gradual nature is also apparent in the names which the Church uses to designate those who are in the various stages of the baptismal catechumenate: sympathizers (RCIA 12), those who are disposed to the faith but do not yet fully believe; catechumens (RCIA 17-18), those who have firmly decided to follow Jesus; elect (RCIA 24), those called to receive Baptism; neophytes (RCIA 31-36) those just born into the light by the grace of Baptism; the Christian faithful (RCIA 39), those who are mature in the faith and active members of the Christian community.

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