When should baptized candidates be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church?
Paul Turner in When Other Christians become Catholic, says, “Whenever they are ready” (p. 161).
The National Statues for the Catechumenate say, not “at the Easter Vigil lest there be any confusion of such baptized Christians with the candidates for baptism ” (33).
We all need conversion, don’t we?
As I talk to folks about this issue, it seems there are several rationales in play. There are those who think of everyone as somewhat equally on a conversion journey. Believing that, there would seem to be little difference between the faith of a catechumen, a baptized candidate seeking reception into the Catholic Church, and the average Catholic who celebrates Mass every Sunday. There is something to be said for this point of view. After all, if a thousand years is as a single day to God (2 Peter 3:8), what can the meager differences in our faith lives seem like?
Converts to Catholicism
Another group of folks would tend to see the catechumens and the candidates for reception as people who have had a religious awakening. They have been led by the Holy Spirit to the Roman Catholic Church because they understand Roman Catholicism to the fullest expression of their newly awakened faith. The catchechumens and the baptized candidates for reception are both groups of seekers joining the Catholic Church.
Beginners in faith
And there might be a third kind of initiation team that would see the catechumens and the uncatechized baptized candidates for reception as beginners on the faith journey. Those who have been baptized and somewhat catechized (or maybe even well catechized) are different from the beginners in faith and more like the weekly-Mass Catholics.
All of the parishes that would hold any of these views would be accepting baptized Christians into the full communion of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, although the third group might receive only the previously uncatechized Christians.
The difficulty with each of these rationales or descriptions of particular journeys of faith is that they each assume some level of accomplishment on the part of the individual. Each position presumes the individual has come to some level (or not) of faith that would determine the ritual celebration of his or her movement from one level of status to another.
Faith as free gift
What is misunderstood in each instance is that faith is a gift—a total, free, and undeserved gift from God. Baptism is the ritual celebration of that gift, and the sacrament of baptism forever and completely changes a person into one of the chosen, a child of God.
Afterward, one can then become a heretic, an apostate, a backslider, or the next Mother Teresa, but one can never undo God’s choice. There is an actual and real difference between the baptized and the unbaptized. There is no comparable difference between two baptized people of different denominations. Both are heirs to the kingdom and disciples of Christ. Both are bestowed with the full rights, responsibilities, duties, and privileges of those who belong to Christ.
The entire lenten process, which has its culmination in the Great Easter Vigil, is about marking and celebrating the miracle that God has chosen yet again to name another of us as son or daughter. We should not attempt to diminish the mighty act of God by seeming to ignore the fact that the baptized candidates for reception have already been chosen, “lest there be any confusion of such baptized Christians with the candidates for baptism.”
1 thought on “Why Baptized Candidates Should Not be Received at the Easter Vigil”
Just attended the Easter Vigil at my new parish. Found it to be very confusing and somewhat distracting. There were five different sets of people: those being fully initiated, those making a profession of faith and celebrating the sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist,some celebrating Confirmation and First Eucharist,(one) First Eucharist only and (one) Baptism only. They were all over the place and it took away from the beautiful and solemn celebration I have grown accostomed to. Is this the norm or have I gotten it wrong all these years?