Why Did It Take So Long To Convert In The Early Church?


#1

In the early Church, catechumens would study for years before being baptized. Why did it take so long to become a Christian in the early Church?

God bless you for answering my question. :blessyou:


#2

Because there is much to learn about God, Christ, Christianity, and living a Christian life.


#3

It was to make sure that one was properly catechized. It was also to make sure that they were serious about the faith and not just trying it out.

The non-baptized were not allowed to be present during the liturgy of the Eucharist/Faithful. All catechumens were kicked out after the readings and the homily. The doors were locked up before the profession of the Creed. All of the Sacraments of the Church were closely guarded. :slight_smile:


#4

The early Church was really hardcore. They were often contending in an extremely hostile environment and it was (if possible) more critical in this early stage than at any other point that its followers be precisely aware of what it is they were signing up for. Early Christians were also extremely protective of the sacraments and were fearful of the wrong person partaking of the Body and Blood. In the contemporary Church, much more responsibility is placed upon the catechumen/candidate in avoiding sacrilege, rather than the clergy.


#5

Not only did they have to learn what Christianity was all about, they had to prove to the community that they were serious and not a threat. They not only had to talk the talk, they had to walk the walk. No asking to join in September and everyone is baptized in March or April, like it’s a graduation.

I think that’s what Rome had in mind when they reestablished the catechumenate, at least that’s what we were told when I did the “Beginnings and Beyond” with the North American Forum for the Catechumenate. But along the way something was lost in translation and now Baptism seems to be a reward for having attended all/most of the classes, and sometimes the community itself knows little or nothing about the catechumens.

I find it incredibly difficult to believe that everyone who inquires in September is ready for Baptism 6 or 7 months later, yet in practice that’s what happens in too many parishes. I know of one parish where a catechumen was denied Baptism for three years because she wouldn’t offer the Sign of Peace to another immigrant like herself who was from a country at war with her own. It was the community that decided that if she couldn’t do that she wasn’t able to live a life the way Jesus wanted. When she was finally able to do that she was baptized and admitted that she had finally come to understand what the community was saying and that they were right that she hadn’t been ready.


#6

Another factor was the desire to postpone Baptism as long as possible, since Baptism wiped away all sin.

The theology of reconciliation was not as fully developed, with some communities holding that one could only receive absolution once in one’s life, and other heretical communities such as a Donatists, who held that certain sins could not be forgiven at all.

Constantine himself put off Baptism until just before his death.


#7

The 3,000 who heard Peter’s preaching and were baptized on Pentecost–it didn’t take them a long time to convert.

Are they the only non death bed conversion people in the history of the Catholic Church who did not take a lot of time to go through the conversion process?

If it was possible for them to convert so quickly–why is it impossible for anyone else to do the same?

Was it simply a matter of the Holy Spirit operating at that specific time in history in an extraordinary way?

It took a few years before catechumens would be required to study for longer periods of time.

It makes me wonder if Catholic evangelists of today could preach the gospel–baptize and receive people into the church as fast as Billy Graham used to do Protestants at his crusades?

Evidently St. Peter was able to do that–and Phillip baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch fairly quickly.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m a convert from 3 years ago and even though I pretty well knew the Catholic faith–I am glad I attended RCIA and glad that I was received into the Catholic Church at Easter vigil–I certainly see the value of good catechesis.

All I am saying is that the length of the RCIA program is not conceivably the ONLY way that one can be received into the Catholic Church–some people know the Catholic faith and can be received into the Catholic church more quickly if they satisfy their priest that they do indeed know the Catholic faith.

I guess you would have to say that the people who converted on Pentecost after hearing Peter’s preaching certainly knew the Catholic faith at that point in time in the Church’s history.

I guess what I’m really asking is how much catechesis is ENOUGH catechesis for one to undergo before being received into the Catholic Church?


#8

Besides what the above posters have said, being a Christian was punishable by death. They wanted to weed out infiltrators who would turn Christians over to the authorities. Look at the attitude toward Paul after his conversion in Acts of the Apostles.


#9

Those were lifelong Jews living near Jerusalem (and the Temple) who were fully immersed in the Old Covenant, and understood all that and were ready for the revealing of the New Covenant, plus many had personally witnessed and interacted with Jesus.


#10

In what year did Catechesis to be received into the Catholic church at Easter start to take at least 6 months? When was the first catechesis of at least 6 months? Just curious.


#11

they were Jews, not pagans. They already were well catechized in the Law and Prophets, and led a life in keeping with God’s law. They already knew the one, true God. They already knew much of Christ’s message from being exposed to his teaching during his 3 year ministry. They were at the final stage of catechsis already.

Not so the non-Jewish pagans of the Empire and beyond.

There is wide lattitude for the process of bringing already baptized members of other ecclesial communions into full communion and full initiation. And, of course those who are already fully initiated in other particular Churches are immediate.

It is not impossible, it depends upon many factors. The Church is primarily concerned with ensuring the person is ready intellectually through catechesis, spiritually through prayer and discernment, and communally through liturgical and community participation.

To a degree.

Yes because the Apostles expanded from Jews to pagans.

No, definitely not.

Yes, this is possible for the baptized. Generally not for the unbaptized but there are exceptions. Baptized and unbaptized are totally different animals.

They knew the Jewish faith. And they recognized Christ as the Messiah and fulfillment of Judaism. Not at all the same as the evangelization of the pagans that came after.

That is an individual determination.


#12

I think the Catholic Church would be better served if there were two RCIA classes a year–in other words 6 months after Easter also receive in an RCIA class.

I think that would be as far as you could go and I think you have to go about 6 months to be properly catechized. I don’t think you’ll see that because usually after Easter most of the people involved in RCIA are worn out and want some rest.


#13

[quote="Jerry-Jet, post:12, topic:338623"]
I think the Catholic Church would be better served if there were two RCIA classes a year--in other words 6 months after Easter also receive in an RCIA class.

I think that would be as far as you could go and I think you have to go about 6 months to be properly catechized. I don't think you'll see that because usually after Easter most of the people involved in RCIA are worn out and want some rest.

[/quote]

The catechetical portion of RCIA can be implemented any way the local parish deems appropriate. It is a mistake to think of RCIA as one thing. It is not. The Rites themselves follow a particularly liturgical norm, and the Rites mainly tie to the unbaptized being received at Easter (i.e. the scrutinies done during specific weeks of Lent).

But the catechesis can take any format or timeline as the local parish is able to accommodate-- many larger parishes do have year round RCIA with multiple reception points for the baptized. Smaller parishes, that may not be practical.


#14

Our parish has just gone to two times per year when you can enter the church. Near Christmas and at Easter.

Of course, RCIA is now a 2 year process.


#15

[quote="Jerry-Jet, post:10, topic:338623"]
In what year did Catechesis to be received into the Catholic church at Easter start to take at least 6 months? When was the first catechesis of at least 6 months? Just curious.

[/quote]

In the Early Church, catechesis took about two or three years to complete. :)


#16

Did the 2 or 3 year catechumanate take place immediately after Pentecost? Did any of the 12 apostles teach catechumens 2 or 3 years? Did Paul ever do that?

John was the last of the 12 disciples to be alive--did he ever teach catechumens for 2 or 3 years? Did Clement do that? Did Polycarp do that? He was probably one of the last few christians that had hear the disciples teach?

I'm not disputing that there was a two or 3 year period--I'm just asking when did that first begin?

I guess the real question isn't how long but what exactly a new Catholic should know when they enter the Catholic Church--that is what might influence the parameters of time that it would take for RCIA to be accomplished.

The only thing I worry about is those people who really want to join the Catholic faith and the answer is "wait til next Easter".

I know that everyone needs to know the faith--i just don't think that it takes until "Next Easter."

I don't think St. Paul operated that way--I'm sure he taught people longer than the 3,000 who came into the church on Pentecost after hearing Peter's preaching but I don't think he told people "Wait until next Easter" to believe and be baptized!

I didn't know personally that some churches to bring people into the church twice a year.

Does that work well? At least those people don't have to hear "wait til next Easter".

Don't get me wrong--I'm sure those who really want to enter the Catholic Church will have no problem with waiting til next Easter and the Easter Vigil is really special and I'll never forget coming into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil but i think it might be a stumbling block for some.

I do know that priests have leeway and if some one really knows the Catholic faith and can satisfy the priest that he does that he can come into the Catholic church at anytime during the year so maybe there really is no problem with Easter only reception into the Catholic church as a general rule--I think twice a year is nice.

Maybe a good second date would be All Saints Day.


#17

[quote="Jerry-Jet, post:16, topic:338623"]
I didn't know personally that some churches to bring people into the church twice a year.

Does that work well? At least those people don't have to hear "wait til next Easter".

Don't get me wrong--I'm sure those who really want to enter the Catholic Church will have no problem with waiting til next Easter and the Easter Vigil is really special and I'll never forget coming into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil but i think it might be a stumbling block for some.

I do know that priests have leeway and if some one really knows the Catholic faith and can satisfy the priest that he does that he can come into the Catholic church at anytime during the year so maybe there really is no problem with Easter only reception into the Catholic church as a general rule--I think twice a year is nice.

Maybe a good second date would be All Saints Day.

[/quote]

In my parish, those who are already Christians are brought into full communion when they are ready. That could be at any point in the year.

Catechumens follow the schedule and are baptized at Easter.

We haven't had that many that they required 'classes', they have been privately instructed but for all that we did all the rites as required.

The problem I see in most of these posts is that people ask what they have to KNOW to become Catholic. It's not so much about what they have to know as it is about what they have to BELIEVE. The catechumenate is about conversion to Christ and is Scripture led. There is an important need for the catechumen to hear all the Gospels in a given liturgical year. Some of the most important Gospels are during the summer, sadly a time when a lot of parishes don't have RCIA.

The preparation of baptized Christians is not about conversion to Christ, in Whom they, presumably, already believe. It's about learning how our Church is different from the one to which they have belonged and learning our dogma. The focus is different and that's why in an ideal situation the groups wouldn't be taught together.

A catechized Anglican shouldn't have to wait 6 months or more to be brought into full communion, unless he/she requires this amount of time. A catechumen, OTOH, shouldn't be starting the catechumenate with the idea that he/she will be baptized next Easter, they should start with the hope that they will someday be ready for baptism. If it happens earlier rather than later, great!

This one size fits all way that parishes do RCIA ignores the fact that conversion takes longer for some than for others and that automatically baptizing in March or April everyone who started the process in September or October (like my friend who starts RCIA this week) is resulting in a lot of people who aren't ready being baptized. The catechumenate should last at least a year and for many people more than that. That's certainly the vision of the catechumenate held by the North American Forum on the Catechumenate.


#18

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