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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: inspiration for catechesis in the Church
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The baptismal catechumenate: inspiration for catechesis in the Church

90. Given that the missio ad gentes is the paradigm of all the Church's missionary activity, the baptismal catechumenate, which is joined to it, is the model of its catechizing activity. (288) It is therefore helpful to underline those elements of the catechumenate which must inspire contemporary catechesis and its significance.

By way of premise, however, it must be said that there is a fundamental difference between catechumens those being catechized, (289) between the pre-baptismal catechesis and the post-baptismal catechesis, which is respectively imparted to them. The latter derives from the sacraments of initiation which were received as infants, "who have been already introduced into the Church and have been made sons of God by means of Baptism. The basis of their conversion is the Baptism which they have already received and whose power they must develop". (290)

91. In view of this substantial difference, some elements of the baptismal catechumenate are now considered, as the source of inspiration for post-baptismal catechesis.

– the baptismal catechumenate constantly reminds the whole Church of the fundamental importance of the function of initiation and the basic factors which constitute it: catechesis and the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The pastoral care of Christian initiation is vital for every particular Church.

– The baptismal catechumenate is the responsibility of the entire Christian community. Indeed "this Christian initiation which takes place during the catechumenate should not be left entirely to the priests and catechists, but should be the care of the entire Christian community, especially the sponsors". (291) The institution of the catechumenate thus increases awareness of the spiritual maternity of the Church, which she exercises in every form of education in the faith. (292)

– The baptismal catechumenate is also completely permeated by the mystery of Christ's Passover. For this reason, "all initiation must reveal clearly its paschal nature. (293) The Easter Vigil, focal point of the Christian liturgy, and its spirituality of Baptism inspire all catechesis.

– The baptismal catechumenate is also an initial locus of inculturation. Following the example of the Incarnation of the Son of God, made man in a concrete historical moment, the Church receives catechumens integrally, together with their cultural ties. All catechetical activity participates in this function of incorporating into the catholicity of the Church, authentic "seeds of the word", scattered through nations and individuals. (294)

Finally, the concept of the baptismal catechumenate as a process of formation and as a true school of the faith offers post-baptismal catechesis dynamic and particular characteristics: comprehensiveness and integrity of formation; its gradual character expressed in definite stages; its connection with meaningful rites, symbols, biblical and liturgical signs; its constant references to the Christian community.

Post-baptismal catechesis, without slavishly imitating the structure of the baptismal catechumenate, and recognizing in those to be catechized the reality of their Baptism, does well, however, to draw inspiration from "this preparatory school for the Christian life", (295) and to allow itself to be enriched by those principal elements which characterize the catechumenate.

288) Cf. MPD 8; EN 44; ChL 61.

289) In this DCG the expressions 'catechumens' and 'those being catechized' are used to make this distinction. For its part the CIC, canons 204-206, notes the different ways by which catechumens and the Christian faithful have union with the Church.

290) RCIA 295. The same Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, chap. 4, ponders the question of those baptized adults who need initiatory catechesis. CT 44 specifies the diverse circumstances in which this catechesis may be deemed necessary.

291) AG 14d.

292) Methodius of Olympus, for example, speaks of this maternal action of the Christian community when he says: With regard to those who are still imperfect (in the Christian life), it is for the more mature to form them and to bring them to birth as a mother. (Symposium, III, 8; GCS 27, 88). See also St Gregory the Great Homilia in Evangelia, I, III, 2; PL 76,1086 D).

293) RCIA 8.

294) Cf. CT 53.

295) DCG (1971) 130. This article begins with the affirmation: "The catechumenate for adults, which at one and the same time includes catechesis, liturgical participation and community living, is an excellent example of an institute that springs from the cooperation of diverse pastoral functions".

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