Sacraments of Initiation
Part 2 History of Initiation

Chapter i29 Vatican II 1960-1975

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Initiation in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Five Major Introductions

General Introduction

To Think About

Before studying this chapter, review the notes on the Second Vatican Council in general.

Preliminary Questions

For some Catholics the Second Vatican Council was an event which radically changed the meaning of "Baptism"; for younger Catholics the Second Vatican Council happened a long time ago. Can you remember what Catholic baptism looked like before the Council?  How were adults baptized?  What was the difference between the two rites? How were adults confirmed? What did the rite for children look like? What was the catechumenate?

Do you recall your baptism? Confirmation? What difference does your baptism make for what you are going to do today? When was the last time you participated in (or saw) a baptism? Have you seen baptism by immersion?

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Bibliography

See the General Bibliography on the Sacraments of Initiation.

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RCIA. Restores Catechumenate. Restores order of (adult) Initiation. New Rite for Infants. Confirmation during Eucharist. Bishop is 'original' (rather than "ordinary") minister of Confirmation. Baptism makes Church. 

Initiation in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

The context of the articles

Christian Initiation is treated in Chapter Three of the Constitution, "The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals."  Recall the structure of the document and recall that the structure itself reveals an understanding of "liturgy." 

Chapter 1.  The General Principles for the Reform and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy
Chapter 2.  The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
Chapter 3.  The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals
Chapter 4.  Divine Office
Chapter 5.  The Liturgical Year
Chapter 6.  Sacred Music
Chapter 7.  Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings

The articles which specifically treat Initiation must be understood in the light of Chapter 1.  The General Principles for the Reform and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy and the discursive articles (59-62) and the general dispositive articles *********63-82paragraphs and the general dispositive articles of Chapter Three.  The integration of Chapter Two, The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist, as the culmination of Initiation comes with the General Introduction. 

 

Chapter III: The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals.

59. The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.

It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.

TRR Commentary: 

60. Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church's intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.

TRR Commentary: 

61. Thus, for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.

TRR Commentary: 

62. With the passage of time, however, there have crept into the rites of the sacraments and sacramentals certain features which have rendered their nature and purpose far from clear to the people of today; hence some changes have become necessary to adapt them to the needs of our own times. For this reason the sacred Council decrees as follows concerning their revision.

TRR Commentary: 

63. Because of the use of the mother tongue in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals can often be of considerable help to the people, this use is to be extended according to the following norms:

a) The vernacular language may be used in administering the sacraments and sacramentals, according to the norm of Art. 36.

b) In harmony with the new edition of the Roman Ritual, particular rituals shall be prepared without delay by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, of this Constitution. These rituals, which are to be adapted, also as regards the language employed, to the needs of the different regions, are to be reviewed by the Apostolic See and then introduced into the regions for which they have been prepared. But in drawing up these rituals or particular collections of rites, the instructions prefixed to the individual rites the Roman Ritual, whether they be pastoral and rubrical or whether they have special social import, shall not be omitted.

TRR Commentary: 

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.

TRR Commentary: 

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.

TRR Commentary: 

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.

TRR Commentary: 

67. The rite for the baptism of infants is to be revised, and it should be adapted to the circumstance that those to be baptized are, in fact, infants. The roles of parents and godparents, and also their duties, should be brought out more clearly in the rite itself.

TRR Commentary: 

68. The baptismal rite should contain variants, to be used at the discretion of the local ordinary, for occasions when a very large number are to be baptized together. Moreover, a shorter rite is to be drawn up, especially for mission lands, to be used by catechists, but also by the faithful in general when there is danger of death, and neither priest nor deacon is available.

TRR Commentary: 

69. In place of the rite called the "Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant," a new rite is to be drawn up. This should manifest more fittingly and clearly that the infant, baptized by the short rite, has already been received into the Church.

And a new rite is to be drawn up for converts who have already been validly baptized; it should indicate that they are now admitted to communion with the Church.

TRR Commentary: 

70. Except during Eastertide, baptismal water may be blessed within the rite of baptism itself by an approved shorter formula.

TRR Commentary: 

71. The rite of confirmation is to be revised and the intimate connection which this sacrament has with the whole of Christian initiation is to be more clearly set forth; for this reason it is fitting for candidates to renew their baptismal promises just before they are confirmed.

Confirmation may be given within the Mass when convenient; when it is given outside the Mass, the rite that is used should be introduced by a formula to be drawn up for this purpose.

TRR Commentary: 

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Five Major Introductions

Roman documents relating to Christian Initiation

1961 APR 16 Modified rite for the baptism of adults.
1969 MAY 15 Rite of Baptism for Children.
1971 AUG 15 Apostolic Constitution promulgating the Rite of Confirmation.
1971 AUG 22 Rite of Confirmation
1972 JAN 06 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
1973 AUG 29 Second typical edition of the Rite of Baptism for Children
1980 NOV 21 SCDF. Instruction on Infant Baptism

One of the major changes in the style of liturgical law following the Second Vatican Council is that the "introductions" are no longer merely "introductions" or "de defectibus" (what to do when something goes wrong) but contain the discursive part of the law (the "General Principles" that the law and the rite intend to achieve.  The current Rites of Initiation contain five major introductions:

1.  Christian Initiation: General Introduction (numbers 1 to 35; in The Rites, pp 3-12.)  (1969 -- work of P. Gy op and the school in Paris.)

2.  Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults - p 35  (Work of Dr. Prof. Balthazar Fisher, and the German school in Trier)

3.  Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into Full Communion with the Catholic Church, RCIA #473 to 486; In The Rites, pp 275 278.

4.  Rite of Baptism for Children - p 366 (1969 -- work of P. Gy op and the school in Paris.)

5.  Rite of Confirmation - p 479 (1971 -- work of Dom Bernard Botte and the Paris school.)

National Statutes for the Catechumate approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on November 11, 1986 Paragraphs 1-35 The Rites Book pp 341-356

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General Introduction

TRR Commentary: 

General:  This introduction appeared first.  Christian Initiation: General Introduction (numbers 1 to 35; in The Rites, pp 3-12.)  (1969 -- work of P. Gy op and the school in Paris.)

The word "Initiation"  was a relatively new term.  Initiation originally referred to pagan initiation and biblical writers and early church fathers were hesitant to use the term for baptism, confirmation and eucharist.  The first use of the term is in the book The Origins of Christian Rite by Duchene who was a professor at the Institut Catholique. About fifty years later this terminology finds its way into textbooks used in Rome and eventually into the language of Vatican Council.

Article 1.  Sacraments (plural) of Christian initiation.  Note metaphors being used.    Baptismconfirmationeucharist -- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Article 2.  Note that the purpose of eucharist is the unity of God's people. "We pray for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that the whole human race my be brought into the unity of Gods family." (Constitution on the Church, 28)

Article 3.  "Built up together in the spirit into a house where God lives." "So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).

The word church should be primarily applied to the people. The building is there for a house for the church. The church building is not primarily God's house, but our house. God's house if one wishes to use that metaphor is the people. This has very important and crucial implications for the considerations of church architecture.

Article 4.  "Once it has been validly celebrated, even if by Christians with whom we are not in full communion, it may never lawfully be repeated." With this statement conditional baptism became much less frequent.

Article 5.  "As proclaimed for the prayers in the blessing of the water." The berakah over the water is one of the prime sources for the theology of baptism. The same can be said for the berakah over the chrism for Confirmation.  (And of course the same can be said for the Eucharistic prayer in the eucharist.)

Article 6. "For baptism recalls and makes present the paschal mystery itself, ..." Recall the definition of anamnesis. Hyper link to glossary. Today we would say rather than "makes present the paschal mystery" we would say "makes us present to the paschal mystery." -- Here we see the reason for baptism celebrated at the Easter Vigil and Sunday. The primary days which we recall the paschal mystery.

Article 7.  Offices and Ministries: Formerly this section always began with the priest as the minister of the sacrament. In the revised rites the primary minister of each of the sacraments is first of all the Church, the entire people of God, each of whom has a ministry in the celebration of the sacrament.

Article 21.   "as the water flows"

Article 22.  immersion

Article 23.  "essential" words

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To Think About

Be able to answer the STUDY QUESTIONS given at the end of each chapter of J. Michael McMahon's The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults: Liturgical Commentary, Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions: Washington DC, 1986.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults contains many technical terms which are not in the religious vocabulary of the ordinary Catholic.  Know the meaning of these terms in the rite and be able to explain them in a way that a member of your parish could understand.  E.g.  Know all the terms and definitions marked (basic) or (initiation) listed on the GLOSSARY pages which I gave you: catechumenate, enlightenment, ephpheta, illumination, etc.

Summarize the RCIA by listing its four periods and three stages.

It has been suggested that the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the most significant document to emerge as a result of Vatican II. What contemporary emphases in sacramental theology does this rite reflect?

You are pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Centerville OH and an unbaptized person comes to you and wants to become a member of the parish.  Explain the process (RCIA, the catechumenate, meaning of Baptism, etc.)

Make a one page outline of the structure of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults that you might give to a convert to explain the rite and the process. What rites are primary? What are secondary?

You are in a parish where the Catechumenate is functioning and there is a need for more people to exercise the ministry of Godparent.  Outline a course you might give to prepare members of the parish for this ministry.

Compose a BRK over the water for Baptism outside of Easter time.

What if the room were divided into two groups:  group one is composed of persons who smoke and group two is composed of non-smokers.  What processes and understandings and techniques would be helpful for someone moving from group one to group two?  For example:  finding new self-identity, finding substitutes for smoking, motivation, support, understanding of health risks, frightening pictures of rotted lungs, etc.  Use this as an analogy to explain the movement from non-Christian to Christian.  Based on this analogy, where are the current Rites of Christian Initiation for the Roman Catholic Church helpful?  Where are they deficient?

How is your diocese structured to give pastors help with initiation?  Who is in charge of the Worship Office?  Who is responsible for the implementation of the RCIA?

Does your diocese supply parishes with materials to help with the initiation rites (guidelines, diocesan policies)?  Describe these materials.  Submit copies of these materials.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 05/15/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org