Becky added a comment to a previous post I wrote on the various types of baptized candidates we might encounter in an RCIA process. She suggested we might also encounter folks who were unbaptized and yet catechized.
That got me thinking about what we mean by “catechized.” Obviously, most of our unbaptized catechumens will reach a stage at which we consider them to be catechized. At that point, they are ready for initiation and have completed their catechumenate formation.
I wondered, though, if Becky might have been referring to unbaptized inquirers show up at our door with a great deal of knowledge about the Catholic faith from their own self-study. (Perhaps she’ll chime in on the comments and clarify!) While these folks might be further along in their formation than inquirers who know nothing about Catholicism, can we really consider them catechized?
If you flip open your RCIA to the section in which the bishop asks the sponsors if the catechumens are ready for election, you’ll see what I mean (see paragraph 131, b).
In order to be considered for the rite of election, the catechumens must have listened to God’s word proclaimed by the church (at Sunday liturgy), responded to that word and begun to walk in God’s presence, and shared in the company and prayer of other Christians.
If an unbaptized person has done a self-study of Catholic teaching, hurray for them! But that is only a part of their formation in faith. They still have a lot to do, and we probably wouldn’t consider them to be “catechized” until they had lived the Catholic life for a time in the midst of other Catholics.
What’s your experience? Have you encountered unbaptized, catechized candidates?
7 thoughts on “Can you be be unbaptized and catechized in the RCIA?”
I almost was one. I came to faith very early in life, was highly catechized by missionary parents, but wasn’t baptized until adulthood because baptism has almost nothing to do with becoming a Christian in Evangelicalism – it’s simply a witness to the faith that must already be present. I was not baptized during childhood due to the nomadic nature of my missionary kid life, so my story is not the norm for Evangelicals who usually baptize children who have arrived at the “age of decision.” But although baptism is considered an ordinance in Evangelical theology but isn’t required for faith. It wasn’t until I joined the Anglican Church in my late twenties, several years before I was accepted into full communion with the Catholic Church, that I was baptized because it was required for membership. Had I not traveled through the Anglican Communion first, I might have been an unbaptized, catechized candidate in the Catholic Church. I’m glad this wasn’t how it worked out for me because it would have been difficult to be treated as uninitiated in the RCIA process. I was definitely catechized, and not just because I had done a lot of “self-study.” I had already been living the Christian faith in a Christian family and in various Christian communities for 30 years. I think it is possible, although probably somewhat rare, for individuals to be truly catechized yet unbaptized.
Hi Daniel. That’s quite a story! Thanks for sharing.
Ministering in North Carolina I have had the joy–and confusion–of journeying with many individuals whose stories are not unlike Daniel’s and whom I would consider catechized but unbaptized (a category not conceived of by the authors of the RCIA). Because, as Daniel notes, baptism in many evangelical communities is not seen as a sacrament one celebrates in order to be incorporated into the Body of Christ but rather as a sign of a faith that is already implanted there are many persons who come to our door who have not only already
Thanks for your terrific input Andrew!
Last year, a 23 year old young lady came to our parish who was raised Catholic by her devout grandparents. She attended Catholic schools for several years as a child, then as a high school student. She went to Mass on a regular basis, but was never baptized. Her mother was married and divorced several times, and she just never ‘got around’ to baptizing any of the children, to the dismay of the grandparents. This young lady said she attended Mass on a regular basis until she went to college, then she stopped attending until her junior year, then started attending regularly. She came to our parish in her senior year, after she had started to attend Mass again with her Catholic boyfriend.
She was baptized this past Easter Vigil, after a period of only a few months in the Catechumenate. She recently graduated from college, and is currently attending a wonderful Catholic parish in San Antonio Texas where she is completing her internship in nuclear medicine as a nurse. She keeps in touch with me since we became close while she was in the Catechumenate.
I’ve encountered a lot of ‘cultural Catholics’ in the past few years who were raised half-heartedly as Catholics, although their parents never took the time to baptize them. I also see quite a few Hispanic children who are older (junior and senior high school) who are unbaptized, but since their parents have settled for a year in our rural area to work on farms and ranches, have requested that thier children recieve Sacraments while they are in one place for a while. Most of them have attended Mass their entire lives, but usually at different parishes, staying for only a couple of months or so due to the parent’s work situation.
Thanks for sharing Michele. There are all kinds of interesting stories in this ministry!
My sister-in-law was never raised with any religion as a child, but once she met my brother 7 years ago, she has been ‘practicing and living the Catholic faith’ by going to Mass regularly, praying on her own and with the family, having theological discussions and self-study. She is more “Catholic” than many Catholics but she is unbaptized. She wanted to join the parish RCIA but the leaders told her that she might take up to 3 years to be baptized, that they would decide when she is ready. She was extremely put off by the experience and stopped RCIA. Now she would still like to attend, but she wants to go to another parish because she felt so belittled. The pastor simply trusts the RCIA leaders to know what’s best. In a way I think she should just stick it out and jump through the hoops in her own parish, and on the other hand, I think – would I want to do that, really?