What usually happens if someone dies while a catechumen? I thought I knew the answer to this, but at least in our parish, it turns out that I was wrong. I don't actually expect to die anytime soon, but I am a catechumen, and so the subject is naturally of interest to me. Besides, any one of us my die unexpectedly at any time.
This came up because my 93 year old father, who lives with us, and is still an Episcopalian, went to the Divine Liturgy with us this morning, and asked our priest what would happen if he were to start regularly coming with us; but were to die before even becoming a catechumen. The answer to that was what I expected, which is that only an Orthodox christian can have an Orthodox burial. That prompted my wife to ask about what would happen if someone were to die while a catechumen. The answer to that one did surprise me. A catechumen can't be given an Orthodox burial either!!
I was surprised because I've read in a couple places that catechumens are to receive an Orthodox burial. At the moment I can only think of where one of those is, and that's the entry on the catechumenate in the Orthodox Wiki. Of course that is a pan Orthodox source, and doesn't indicate what the policy of any specific jurisdiction may be. The other reason is that my wife's sister and brother-in-law are ROCOR, and they seem certain that a catechumen would be able to have an Orthodox burial. Since it's natural to assume that ROCOR will be more strict than the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America that made it seem likely that if ROCOR does it, then GOARCH would. Or course they could have been wrong about ROCOR.
Anyway, that makes me wonder what usually occurs if a catechumen dies? That also brings up the question of how long does the catechumenate usually last? My wife and I have only been officially catechumens for a couple months, so I'm not saying that that's too long. After all in the early church, the catechumenate usually lasted for 3 years. But I do wonder what the duration usually is now.
In our case, we have been thinking and reading about the Orthodox Church for many years; and finally made our decision about 10 months ago. By the time we started attending the Divine Liturgy at our Greek Orthodox parish we were already convinced about Orthodoxy, and if it had been up to us; we probably would have become catechumens much sooner than we did.
I felt that it was important to ignore the American tendency to want instant gratification, and to wait for God's timing, and to accept our priest's opinion about when it was God's timing. I still think that way about chrismation too. I think that way, but at the moment I don't exactly feel that way. I guess I just realized that I'm further outside the Church that I thought I was; and it was a bit of a shock. I'm not exactly afraid of dying, but I am afraid of dying outside the Church.
Sorry to ramble on so long, but I can't discuss it with our priest at present, since he's on his way to the Archdiocesan Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, and will be on vacation for a week after that.