Saturday, March 8, 2008

RCIA History

When trying to put together a solid timeline of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), you have to go back to the early church. They would communally work on the call to conversion. Oddly as you will see the RCIA has come full circle in the 21st century.

After the first 100 years of the church the conversion process and the Initiation process began to have some form to it. This was the beginning of the catechumenate. The conversion of Gentiles was very comprehensive as to make sure that each person understood the Judeo Christian culture, teachings and history.

As we moved to the 3rd and 4th centuries, the process had developed into a three year program. During this time Constantine made Christianity legal. By the 5th century the catechumenate began to go. Many children were being baptized as infants.

In 1538 there was an Episcopal conference. During this conference these two groups asked that the pastors return to the missionary principles and return to missionary principle of the early church and reestablish the catechumenate. It was unsuccessful. The process stayed as it was all the way up through the early 20th century.

In the early 1900s there was a revival moment to re-add the Catechumenate to the process of conversion. In France there were many problems because of the number of non practicing Catholics. And in African, it was very apparent that they were working in a missionary capacity and needed to build the Catholic Church from the ground up just as the early Christians did by going to small communities.

Whether the success of the French and African programs or just the recognition that working within small groups makes for a more successful situation, Vatican II took up the cause of the Catechumenate, and called for it to e reinstated. The Bishops by overwhelming majority reinstated and restored the catechumenate. The vote was 2,165-9-1. By 1966 a temporary rite was handed out to all the parishes outlining the process and a secondary version was handed out in 1969 and by 1972 the Catechumenate was back and instated in parishes and by 1986 the US Bishops were mandating that this rite be implemented in ALL US Parishes and gave a nation plan of how to do it. By 1988 it was completely in place.

From 1988 though present the process has been evolving. In 2000 the Bishops visited the subject only to find that may parishes were not really fleshing out the program . But despite the tepid reception of the program and its installation, the Bishop to date have refused to change the program. They feel it is very important to the community for conversion of the entire parish.

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