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Sacraments of Initiation


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Title: Sacraments of Initiation

Sacraments of Initiation
  • Steve Surprenant, MBA, STB/MA
  • Senior Vice President COO
  • Mercy Community Health, CT

January 6, 2009
  • Understand the biblical foundations of the
    Catholic Sacraments of Initiation
  • Understand the impact of historical changes on
    the Sacraments of Initiation
  • Understand the current sacramental theology of
    the Sacraments of Initiation

Todays Agenda
  • Introduction
  • Sacraments of Initiation
  • New Testament and in the early Christian
  • The evolution of Catholic interpretation
  • The Middle Ages and The Council of Trent
  • The contemporary theology of the Sacraments of
  • Following Vatican II

  • Catholic Church
  • Also called Roman Catholic Church
  • catholic from Greek for universal
  • All come under the jurisdiction of the Pope,
    successor of Saint Peter, Bishop of Rome
  • Western Rite (Latin Rite)
  • Eastern Catholic Churches (comprised of 22 rites)
  • Byzantine, Coptic, Armenian, Maronite, Syriac and
  • Scope of Discussion

What is a Sacrament?
  • The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace,
    instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church,
    by which divine life is dispensed to us. The
    visible rites by which the sacraments are
    celebrated signify and make present the graces
    proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in
    those who receive them with the required
    dispositions. (1113)
  • Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law.
    There are seven Baptism, Confirmation (or
    Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the
    Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony.
    The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all
    the important moments of Christian life they
    give birth and increase, healing and mission to
    the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a
    certain resemblance between the stages of natural
    life and the stages of the spiritual life.

Signs and Symbols
  • A sacramental celebration is woven from signs and
    symbols. Their meaning is rooted in the work of
    creation and in human culture, specified by the
    events of the Old Covenant and fully revealed in
    the person and work of Christ. (1145)
  • The liturgy of the Church presupposes, integrates
    and sanctifies elements from creation and human
    culture, conferring on them the dignity of signs
    of grace, of the new creation in Jesus Christ.
  • Signs of the covenant. The Chosen People received
    from God distinctive signs and symbols that
    marked its liturgical life. (1150)

Signs and Symbols
  • These are signs of the covenant, symbols of
    God's mighty deeds for his people. Among these
    liturgical signs from the Old Covenant are
    circumcision, anointing and consecration of kings
    and priests, laying on of hands, sacrifices, and
    above all the Passover. The Church sees in these
    signs a prefiguring of the sacraments of the New
    Covenant. (1150)
  • Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the
    Lord Jesus often makes use of the signs of
    creation to make known the mysteries of the
    Kingdom of God.17 He performs healings and
    illustrates his preaching with physical signs or
    symbolic gestures. He gives new meaning to the
    deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to
    the Exodus and the Passover, for he himself is
    the meaning of all these signs. (1151)

Sacraments of Initiation
  • The Sacraments of Christian initiation - Baptism,
    Confirmation, and the Eucharist - lay the
    foundations of every Christian life. "The sharing
    in the divine nature given to men through the
    grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the
    origin, development, and nourishing of natural
    life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism,
    strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation,
    and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal
    life. By means of these sacraments of Christian
    initiation, they thus receive in increasing
    measure the treasures of the divine life and
    advance toward the perfection of charity.
    (1212) (Intro to RCIA Divinae consortium

Sacraments of Initiation
  • baptizein (Greek) for plunged into
  • metanoia (Greek) for turning around
  • Baptism was seen as a conversion/turning from
    life of the flesh to life in the Spirit
  • Plunging into the life, death and resurrection
    of Jesus Christ
  • Celebrate this conversion process through ritual
    ceremonies/actions within the Church
  • Sacraments of Initiation are invitation to a
    life-long process of conversion

The Early Church
  • First Christians were those who had either known
    Jesus or were hearing about him from those who
    knew him personally
  • We know from the Gospels and the Acts of the
    Apostles the Jesus sent his disciples out to
    preach, teach and baptize
  • Baptism of John the Baptist, the same that Jesus
    himself experienced
  • Through baptism that you became a follower of
    Jesus a Christian

The Early Church
  • In the early Church, adults and children were all
    baptized hear in the Acts that whole households
    were baptized
  • From the earliest times, baptism was first and
    foremost for the forgiveness of sins
  • Involved a personal commitment, metanoia, turning
    around, life-change
  • This new start of life involved the presence of
    Jesus the newly baptized sharing in Christs
    passion, death and resurrection

Sacrament of Confirmation
  • Early Church, the ordinary ministry of all
    sacraments was the bishop direct connection with
    the Apostles
  • By 4th C, with the growth and spread of the
    Church, priests began to baptize and preside at
    the Eucharist
  • So, anointing after baptism (confirming) reserved
    for the bishop originally may have been
    separated by weeks or months, but soon became
    months or years
  • True in the Western rite, not Eastern Rites

Sacrament of Confirmation
  • Interestingly, the Eucharist was still given to
    all newly baptized, even infants (either the
    bread or the wine, or both)
  • Still true today in Eastern Rites
  • So, by 4th C, in Western Rite, the original order
    of Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism,
    Confirmation and Eucharist, had changed to
    Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation
  • True with the exception of the Easter Vigil
    celebrated by the bishop

The Middle Ages
  • Time passed and theology evolved
  • Dark Ages Catholic theology and ritual were
    confined primarily to monasteries in the West
  • Great Schism (1054 AD) between East and West
  • All of these events impacted theology surrounding
    Sacraments of Initiation
  • By 12th C, for example, Church stopped offering
    Eucharistic bread to infants because might spit
    up, then when cup was withdrawn for everyone,
    children now excluded

The Middle Ages
  • So, by 13th C, First Holy Communion would happen
    after a period of education, usually around the
    age of 14 or 15
  • However, baptized children probably had already
    been brought to the bishop cathedral for
    confirmation before First Holy Community
  • Original order of Baptism, Confirmation and
    Eucharist was again restored

Pre-Vatican Council
  • Pope Pius X (1906) allowed children to make First
    Holy Communion as young as age 6-7
  • Now, order disrupted again Baptism, Eucharist
    and Confirmation
  • Theology developed around Confirmation as a
    stand alone sacrament of strengthening
  • Kiss of peace became a slap on the cheek those
    being confirmed with soldiers for Christ

Contemporary Practice
  • Vatican Council II (1962-1965) opened the
    Catholic Church to the modern age and new
    thinking and schools of theology
  • One call from the bishops of the world was to
    reinstate the catechumenate time of preparation
    for adults preparing to come into the Church
  • By 1972 promulgated by Rome 1988 became
    mandatory for all dioceses in the USA

Duality of Practice
  • For infants/young children, still have the
    practice of Baptism for infants, first Eucharist
    in 2nd grade, and Confirmation in high school
  • Catechesis
  • Parents are required to complete preparation
    classes for Baptism
  • Child and parents complete classes before First
    Holy Community
  • Child/young adult completes two year program of
    preparation for Sacrament of Confirmation
  • Parish priest is ministry for Baptism and
    Eucharist Bishop or delegate for Confirmation

Duality of Practice
  • For adults, Rite of Christian Initiation of
    Adults (RCIA)
  • Catechesis
  • Extensive period of preparation usually
    accompanied by a sponsor
  • At the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday), candidate
    receives Sacraments of Initiation in original
  • Parish priest is ministry for all of the
    sacraments using Sacred Chrism blessed by the

Sacraments of Initiation Today
  • The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace,
    instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church,
    by which divine life is dispensed to us. The
    visible rites by which the sacraments are
    celebrated signify and make present the graces
    proper to each sacrament. (1113)

Sacraments of Initiation Today
  • Whenever possible, Sacraments of Initiation
    should take place within the celebration of the
    Eucharist greatest of the Sacraments
  • Liturgy of the Word is always celebrated
  • Baptism (for infants)
  • Anointing Oil of Catechumens (on the chest)
  • Bless the Water and Make Profession of Faith
  • Baptism either pouring water or immersion
  • Anointing Sacred Chrism (on the head)
  • Clothing with White Garment
  • Lighting Baptismal Candle from Easter Candle

Sacraments of Initiation Today
  • Eucharist
  • Liturgy of the Word
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist
  • Special involvement of the children in the
  • Confirmation (for young adults)
  • Celebrated by the Bishop (or designee)
  • Invocation of the Holy Spirit
  • Taking of a Name
  • Anointing with Sacred Chrism
  • Sign of Peace

RCIA Today
  • Begin as Candidates seeking membership in the
    Christian community of faith
  • Welcome through a formal ritual and anointing to
    the Catechumenate now Catechumens time of final
    preparation for initiation into the Church
    finally become Elect with scrutinies
  • Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday)
  • Profession of Faith
  • Baptism Rite
  • Confirmation
  • Participation in the Eucharist

Closing Thought
  • Gospels tell of that Jesus missioned His
    disciples to go out, preach the Good News of
    salvation to baptize in the name of the Father,
    Son and Holy Spirit
  • Ritual process of Christian initiation is the
    beginning of a journey that concludes only with
    the vision of God. In other words, one is
    initiated into a way of life, a living out of the
    implications of baptism. Such a journey is not
    concluded until each Christian meets the Lord.
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