An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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An organized time of Christian formation and education in preparation for baptism. The catechumenate is a time for training in Christian understandings about God, human relationships, and the meaning of life. According to Hippolytus's Apostolic Tradition, a third-century document, adult converts to the Christian faith were presented to teachers by those who could vouch for them, and entered into a three-year period of study and preparation in the catechumenate. These "hearers," or catechumens, attended services of readings, instructions, and prayers which concluded with the laying on of hands by the teacher. They were trained in Christian doctrine and morals. Catechumens were admitted as candidates after three years in the catechumenate when their faith, life, and understanding indicated their readiness for baptism. Candidates were enrolled at the beginning of Lent and entered into an intense time of instruction in the gospel and of daily exorcisms prior to their baptism at Easter. The catechumenate is now being revived in the Episcopal church. It is marked by three stages: 1) During the Pre-catechumenal period, inquirers may test their desire for baptism. 2) Those desiring baptism may be admitted to the catechumenate. Entry into the catechumenate begins with a public liturgical act at the principal Sunday liturgy. Each catechumen is presented by a sponsor who normally accompanies the catechumen through the process of candidacy and serves as a sponsor at baptism. Catechumens participate in regular worship and Christian service and receive instruction in Christian faith and doctrine, including the scriptures. The instructional sessions are led by a catechist, and continue through the period of candidacy until baptism. These sessions conclude with a time of silence, prayers for the catechumens by other baptized persons who are present, and prayers and the laying of a hand on the head of each catechumen by the catechist. 3) Candidacy for baptism is normally a period of six weeks, marked by a series of liturgical acts on the Sundays leading up to the baptism. Candidates for baptism at the Great Vigil of Easter are normally enrolled on the First Sunday of Lent. Candidates to be baptized on the First Sunday after Epiphany are enrolled on the First Sunday of Advent. The BOS provides liturgical forms for the catechumenate, including a form for the admission of catechumens, prayers for use at the conclusion of sessions of instruction during the catechumenate and the period of candidacy, a form for the enrollment of candidates for baptism, and prayers and blessings for use before the prayers of the people during the period of candidacy. When candidates are enrolled, their names are written in a large book and the celebrant prays, "God grant that they may also be written in the Book of Life." See Apostolic Tradition; see Christian Formation; see Sponsor (at Baptism).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.