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Author Topic: To become a catechumen or not to become a catechumen: that is the question!  (Read 2974 times) Average Rating: 0
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GregoryLA
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« on: February 06, 2010, 01:55:24 AM »

I've been looking into Orthodoxy for about a year or so now but have yet to formally become a catechumen.  I think the main reason is that I see being a catechumen as an "engagement" and I take it pretty seriously.  I've been attending an Orthodox Church for about 8 months, but it only meets once a month.  I've also attended services whenever I could when traveling.  Also, for almost a year I've corresponded via email and phone with a priest in the States who's been very helpful.  I've been reading lots of books, trying to say my morning and evening prayers, I've been trying to keep the fasts (and often failing), I've set up my icon corner.  I really have been trying to embrace Orthodoxy and learn, I suppose my hesitancy is just the issue of commitment.

This past Christmas when I was at home I visited twice the church of the priest who I've been corresponding with.  The second time when I went up for the veneration of the Gospels he asked me, "Have you been made a catechumen yet?"  I told him no and he said, "Would you like to be?"  I apologized and said I'd like to talk to him some more about it first.  My priest here in Japan also has told me to take things slowly.  But after a year, I do want to take things to a higher level of commitment.  Among my friends I'm already known as the "Orthodox guy" and I do self-identify with that even though I try to honestly explain to people that I'm not officially and formally Orthodox yet.

Inspite of my real desire to take things to the next step (i.e. becoming a catechumen), I'm still somewhat hesitant because I don't want to quit halfway through.  I still have questions about so much and there's still so much I don't know or understand.  I know part of the catechumen process is learning.  In my mind, I want to become a catechumen when I really am ready to be baptized into the Orthodox Church.  Yet, at that point I would want to have no real questions- which raises the question of what would be the purpose of a catechumenate then?  I just take very seriously joining the Orthodox Church and I fear that I may have a crisis of faith- a "I wish I'd thought of that/learned that/asked this question before I joined the Orthodox Church" moment.

I fully intend to talk to the priest in the States who has become a sort of de facto spiritual father to me about this, but what advice might you all have?

Thank you and please pray for me!
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ms.hoorah
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2010, 02:01:09 AM »

Praying for you. Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2010, 02:26:16 AM »

For what it's worth, my priest told me that it's like getting married.  You just have to take a leap of faith at some point or it will never happen.  You're never going work out all of those issues.  I learn new things about my wife all of the time, and there's no way I could haev "known it all" and made a totally informed decision based on what I knew.  That's not to say I jumped into marriage blind (we were together for five years!), but it still took faith to make the vows. 

It all boiled down to the fact that I knew in my heart how much I loved her and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  Orthodoxy was the same way in many respects.
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2010, 08:12:26 AM »

GregoryLA,

I really admire your "all-or-nothing" spirit and the seriousness with which you are considering this. I think its a good quality. And I can understand your hesitancy in entering the catechumenate, in not wanting to drop out half way through. The catechumenate is, I suppose, a preparation for Baptism, so I can see why you would want to enter the catechumenate only if you had decided to seek Baptism. Just one thing though, I don't think our learning stops when the catechumenate stops. I was Baptised into the Orthodox Church as an infant, so my catechumenate lasted about ten minutes between the time when the priest read the prayer of the making of a catechumen over me and when he Baptised and Chrisimated me! And strangely, I didn't learn everything about Orthodox Christianity in those ten minutes! Cheesy I'm 43 now and I'm still learning!

George
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2010, 09:36:29 AM »

For what it's worth, my priest told me that it's like getting married.  You just have to take a leap of faith at some point or it will never happen.  You're never going work out all of those issues.  I learn new things about my wife all of the time, and there's no way I could haev "known it all" and made a totally informed decision based on what I knew.  That's not to say I jumped into marriage blind (we were together for five years!), but it still took faith to make the vows.  

It all boiled down to the fact that I knew in my heart how much I loved her and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  Orthodoxy was the same way in many respects.
As a convert, did you see entering the catechumenate as a "pledge" that you would be Baptized? What does entering the catechumenate really means for a convert today? Is it a time for examining whether you are ready to be received into the Church, or should one only enter the catechumenate when they finally decide to be Baptized?
« Last Edit: February 06, 2010, 09:36:55 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2010, 01:29:33 PM »

Quote
What does entering the catechumenate really means for a convert today? Is it a time for examining whether you are ready to be received into the Church, or should one only enter the catechumenate when they finally decide to be Baptized?

The way that one priest explained it to me, back when I was a catechumen in 2001, was that it was akin to an engagement (along the lines of what Alveus said). The point was that, once you became a catechumen, you were pretty much obligated to go through with it. You had already become Orthodox in some sense (e.g. you could get an Orthodox funeral if you died), and it was your duty to see the conversion process finished.
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2010, 06:03:30 PM »

For what it's worth, my priest told me that it's like getting married.  You just have to take a leap of faith at some point or it will never happen.  You're never going work out all of those issues.


This was exactly what I was thinking.  Even with engagement to be married, there's often still a niggling doubt/wondering but you just make a decision, and then follow through with the commitment.  When things get tough, you continue the choice you already made to see the commitment through. 

We were made catechumens last August, and were baptized just after Theophany a few weeks ago.  It's like marriage -- you don't know how great (nor how hard) it will be until you're actually in it. 
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2010, 07:39:02 PM »

As a convert, did you see entering the catechumenate as a "pledge" that you would be Baptized? What does entering the catechumenate really means for a convert today? Is it a time for examining whether you are ready to be received into the Church, or should one only enter the catechumenate when they finally decide to be Baptized?

I didn't do it until I felt certain that I wanted to be Orthodox, which was after attending services for about six months.  For me it was like publicly announcing an engagement, with the announcement of the wedding date to be sometime in the near future.  I'm giving myself as long as I need in the catechumenate.  I'm currently at a year and three months since making my vows.

I'm still getting cold feet all of the time, but it's still what I want.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2010, 07:39:32 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
trifecta
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2010, 11:02:53 PM »

I feel your pain Gregory and ohio gozaimas (that's anglicized Japanese for anyone else reading this). 

The great thing about Orthodoxy is there is not the hurry-up-and-decide mentality that exists in many Protestant churches (don't know the background you are coming from).  Remember that.  (Some priests forget this but they shouldn't, IMHO.)

In John Chrystostom's time, the cathecumenate lasted about three years.  I went this route. 
During that time, I studied more and also looked into the arguments from Protestants and especially Catholics against Orthodoxy.   This surprised some of my Orthodox friends who thought since I was a catechumen, I was beyond this.

I like what you said about if you had no questions, why would you be in the catechumenate?   So, question away.  Read, ask questions.   But, as you also noted, this can go too far.  Stephen Hawking wants to know everything, but he is still asking questions.  Odds are you won't get there either.

An important question for me was who do I trust more--me or the church.   You have to be able to trust the church, just as we trust our doctors for medicine rather than reading medical books by ourselves.  Fortunately, the Orthodox Church has 2,000 years of holy people going for her.

Hope this helps.
 


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