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Author Topic: Duration of Catechumenate?  (Read 4831 times) Average Rating: 0
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Jennifer
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« on: February 10, 2005, 10:45:35 PM »

I've been informed by my priest that he won't chrismate me for "quite some time."  I'm not quite sure what that means but I imagine a very long time as he does not like me very much. 

How long is the typical catechumenate? 

I can imagine that a priest could hold someone 'hostage,' refusing to chrismate them until they turn into the kind of Christian the priest likes.  It's frustrating. 

Apparently I don't fit the nice quiet 'pious' mold.  I'm not quite good enough to join the spiritual aristocracy. 

Oh well, I disgress. 
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2005, 11:03:06 PM »

hmm well, my understanding is that one year is about an average, since in ancient times it was like 2 or 3 years, and nowadays it can be as short as a few weeks. i personally am having a catechumenate of just about under a year, not because such a time period was prescribed to me by the priest, but because it is what i needed to feel ready, prepared, and un-busy enough to give it the time i feel it deserves. i am sorry that your priest seems to not like you, but one of the big things about the catechumenate i think is to obey the priest's wishes and guidances, and to have faith that he knows what is best for you. if you have been received into the catechumenate via the lil ceremony, then u are already a part of the Orthodox Church, so that is something to feel good and secure about - i know it helped me. anyway, i wish you luck, but remember, humility and patience are 2 of the virtues that the catechumenate seems to test (not that i am suggesting you lack either of these). Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2005, 11:13:23 PM »

My catechumenate was about 6 months. However,  I had spent the previous year before that exploring Orthodoxy and trying to do the Jesus Prayer and whatnot, reading Orthodox books, and attending an Orthodox Church a good bit of that time. If you think a priest is being totally unfair you can talk to the bishop. My own advice is to please not hop to another priest that will bring you into the Church more quickly. People talk about hopping jurisdictions, but hopping priests just because you don't think he's doing things properly can be just as harmful (even if you are correct, it can still be harmful).
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2005, 11:30:08 PM »

I've known the priest that chrismated me for a while, about a year or so, I forget, maybe Mor E can remember better. But I only informed him in November that I wanted to become Orthodox, and he chrismated me on December 19. He had me read a book teaching each important aspect of the Orthodox Faith and basically tested me every week until my chrismation on what I learned. It was very fast, but he seemed to believe (and I do as well) that I became a catechumen a while before, while not ceremoniously denouncing my RC faith. As Donna said, some priests want to chrismate you right away once they're sure you know what you're getting yourself into, others may want you to be of theologian status before you're chrismated. While you're not a full member of the church as a catechumen, you know where you will end up. The priest's job is to prepare you as much as possible to be received into the fullness of the faith.

Everything in it's due time I guess.

I've got to go watch ER now!
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2005, 11:31:09 PM »

Mine should have been longer and I should have received some personal counseling instead of just a 6 week "inquirers class" with about 25 other people (required for people getting married in the Church). 'Cause mine really didn't take too well! Sad
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Jennifer
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2005, 11:31:40 PM »

I don't mean to sound like I'm 'bragging' here but I've been studying Orthodoxy for at least 5 years.   I've been attending Orthodox Churches 'religiously' for about 6 months (at least).  Off and on for 5 years before that.  Said the Jesus Prayer for years. 

I'm not saying that I think I'm ready to be chrismated tomorrow or anything.  It just ticks me off that some people just breeze right through the process. 

It smacks of a kind of spiritual 'elitism' to me.  The idea being that some people are just 'better' than the rest. 

They say the Church is a "hospital" for sinners but yet expect us 'outsiders' to become perfect before we're allowed in.  How does one become "perfect" without the sacraments? 

But I guess that I should just accept my spiritual second-class status.  Sad
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2005, 11:41:26 PM »

If this ends up sounding really mean or bad, please forgive me because I don't want it to sound that way:
Maybe you came at the first hour.  I don't know any other way of saying it.  Those coming at the last hour are welcomed just as much as those that came at the first.  It is a difficult thing to see happen, and may seem unfair.  There's no reason for you or anyone to be treated as "second class". 
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2005, 12:00:39 AM »

Jennifer,

Quote
But I guess that I should just accept my spiritual second-class status.

You would be at peace if you did. I wish I could.
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2005, 12:43:54 AM »

I am with Tom here.  I had a very short time as a Catachumen From November 14th, 2002 until my Chrisimation on January 4th, 2003.  I really wish I would have had more time to work out some issues I had and still have.  Look at it as a blessing - time for prayer, for reading the fathers etc. 

As to how can one be healed without the mysteries of the Church?

Even as a catachumen you can have a spiritual father chisel away at the passions with his guidance.  After committing certain sins the canons perscribe that someone may not recieve communion for a certain amount of time - how are they healed?  Through repentance.  That time becomes a blessing to repent and contributes to the person's salvation. 
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2005, 01:01:30 AM »

It just ticks me off that some people just breeze right through the process.

It smacks of a kind of spiritual 'elitism' to me.
The idea being that some people are just 'better' than the rest.


I am not sure that some breeze through because they are thought of as any better, perhaps. I know your pain, I really do.

You have basically two options, try as best as possible to accept in humble obedience and understand that it is God's will in your life, or, resist that and get sick with resentment at being, what you call, a second class Christian.

If it is a mistake on the part of the priest, he will have to answer for that, not you. God does not deprive you of His grace because of the priest. The priest does have a responsiblity for bringing people into the Faith.

Why do you say, or how do you know that, the priest does not like you? Did you ask him what that meant "quite some time"?
 

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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2005, 02:40:52 AM »

Quote
I don't mean to sound like I'm 'bragging' here but I've been studying Orthodoxy for at least 5 years.   I've been attending Orthodox Churches 'religiously' for about 6 months (at least).  Off and on for 5 years before that.  Said the Jesus Prayer for years.

I'm not saying that I think I'm ready to be chrismated tomorrow or anything.  It just ticks me off that some people just breeze right through the process.

It smacks of a kind of spiritual 'elitism' to me.  The idea being that some people are just 'better' than the rest.

They say the Church is a "hospital" for sinners but yet expect us 'outsiders' to become perfect before we're allowed in.  How does one become "perfect" without the sacraments?

But I guess that I should just accept my spiritual second-class status.  Sad

I have been a catechumen for some time. I do not feel like a second class Christian, nor like my status is lower than the rest of my parish. Forgive me if this sounds like I am judging you, because I do not mean to, but there is more to be gained from the catechumenate than the things you mentioned (5 years' worth of studying Orthodoxy, time accumulated attending services, incorporating the Jesus Prayer and other Orthodox prayers into your daily life). As I have already mentioned: humility and patience. These are invaluable, and everyone needs practice at them - myself most of all. If it is ticking you off that others (and which others? people in your parish? or people you are many times removed from over the internet? or still others that I haven't considered?) seem to be "breezing through the process," then it is possible you are concentrating more on the spiritual state of others and less on the spiritual state of yourself - a very important aspect of the catechumenate (the latter), in my experience. I do not see where you get that it smacks of spiritual 'elitism' or that it implies others are somehow 'better' than you...I would say ask your priest about this, but I can anticipate that his answer would be something like: "why are you concerned with them? this is the time you have to prepare yourself."

I do agree, that it takes the sacraments to become "perfect," but receiving the sacraments when not fully prepared can be spiritually harmful as well. This is what keeps me from getting anxious whenever Communion time comes during Liturgy. In addition, another aspect of the situation is allowing the priest to get to know you...he will be your spiritual father. You should develop a relationship with him before it is elevated to that of SF - at least I found this to be beneficial in my experience. I hesitated for many months calling my priest my SF, because I felt he did not know my spirit well enough yet to take responsibility for it...even though I am still a catechumen and have not received the sacrament of Confession with him yet, based on our many conversations about my life - both in and outside of the Church - I know feel comfortable identifying him as my SF. And this, for me, is a very important aspect of becoming Orthodox - the idea that a priest knows my spiritual state well enough to prescribe the exact medicine I need each time I confess - I sorely lacked this in my former RC faith.

Again, forgive me if anything I have said has come off as being judgmental or harsh. I do not mean it to be. I will keep you in my prayers. Please pray for me.
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2005, 02:50:03 AM »

Mine should have been longer and I should have received some personal counseling instead of just a 6 week "inquirers class" with about 25 other people (required for people getting married in the Church). 'Cause mine really didn't take too well!  Sad

Dude, that's obvious. Wink

You admit it though - so probably better off than you think.
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2005, 02:55:20 AM »

Jennifer,
My priest is a conservativer OCA priest.  I don't think he's Chrismated ANYONE with a catechumenate under 6 mos.  I've seen several in our parish that have gone >1 yr and there are current ones that will as well.  Stick with it. 
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2005, 10:14:11 AM »

In my case, I dont kow how you would date it. I have been actively involved with going to church for a year, been assigned reading by the retired priest at the time i first came to see him about converting. I just started seriously sitting with the new priest this year. He would like to crismate me on Holy Saturday (according to an old tradition, he is checking with the bishop though on that--and baptise my kids then as well) but he says I am doing really really well (somehow it seems like i already know all this, these things we are discussing, and i am just reviewing them. In some part,I mean, because there is still a lot to discuss.).

I think a lot depends on your priest, and how he feels you are doing,and how YOU feel you are doing. I dont feel like I am breezing through anything...it isnt easy, but it does feel right, and really a breakthrough for me is this past Sunday when i was in church, and i didnt feel the least tiny bit awkward at all about being there, no "what am i doing here" just "this is where you are supposed to be, what took you so long" I dont feel second class, i just feel like well, when it is time, it will be time.
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Jennifer
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2005, 02:10:25 PM »

I want to clarify a few things here.  I don't feel that I am ready to be chrismated now or anytime in the immediate future.   However, I don't feel that this should be drug out to some years long 'ordeal' which is what I think this priest has in mind. 

I also don't feel as a catechumen that I am a "second class citizen."  I think that this priest has an understanding of 'piety' that is somewhat rigid and therefore views my 'approach' as being not as good.  I am a 'questioner.'  And just because I question something doesn't mean I don't accept it. 

I also think that this priest ascribes opinions to me that I don't actually have based on who I am.  He seems to assume that I'm some 'fifth-column' feminist because I'm an unmarried professional. 

To me, Christianity goes beyond the 'pat' answers.  The nice-sounding platitudes.  I think he sees this as spiritual immaturity while I see it as spiritual maturity (not to suggest that I'm spiritually mature because I'm not).  I've done the unquestioning piety thing already and found it wanting.  I love what Fr. Schmemman says about Christianity not being a religion.  It's not a 'feel good' thing. 

I can't explain this well. 

Perhaps I need to find a different church.  I can't see this guy being a spiritual father to me as we seem to have a clashing understanding of faith.  I need someone who can go deeper than the the pat answers because I've moved past them. 
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« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2005, 02:15:52 PM »

I need someone who can go deeper than the the pat answers because I've moved past them.

Can you give an example of one of these "pat answers" to a question?

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« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2005, 02:35:38 PM »

Have you ever read The Sayings of the Desert Fathers Jennifer? It has the solution to your problem.
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« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2005, 02:41:43 PM »

Hmm, we're taught in a class on pastoral theology at seminary to engage people and that doubt is normal, and that it is not bad as long as the person is willing to humbly engage it and try to grow to deeper understanding.  Maybe this priest didn't go to my seminary, or didn't do well in the class.

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« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2005, 02:54:00 PM »

I can't explain this well. 

I think you explained it very well indeed! Azn
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« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2005, 05:59:21 PM »

Jennifer,

I know you are assertive, being a lawyer and all.

Go up to the priest and tell him you're ready.  Ask him to be chrismated.

See what his response is.

R
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« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2005, 11:09:17 PM »

We talked and I think we've resolved things.   I intend to stay where I am for now.   

What I discovered when we talked is how much we had misunderstood each other.  I'm a 'questioner.'  I need to figure things out.   I'll even question things that I believe.  Probably because of my legal training. 

But it turns out that he thought that I rejected some of the things that I questioned. 

But I feel like I'm not getting a lot of guidance.  He's given me almost spiritual guidance.   No prayer advice.  It's frustrating. 

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« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2005, 11:22:58 PM »

Jennifer,

Here is a possibility: go to him for your catechumenate. Learn the faith from him. But find a traditional women's monastery and visit there, and see if you might find some type of more spiritual guidance there.  In order to forestall him getting angry at you for "straying" say clearly that you require a woman's perspective as well.

Anastasios
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« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2005, 02:34:14 AM »

Here is a map of monasteries under the spiritual direction of Fr. Ephraim in North America:  http://stanthonysmonastery.org/Map.htm

While services are in Greek I believe all the spirtual fathers and mothers speak English.
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« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2005, 03:37:13 PM »

Jennifer, maybe you could explain to him that you would like to establish a relationship with a woman monastic and see if he has a problem with that.  He may not have one at all with it.  Maybe he will be able to recommend someone.  Also, what jurisdiction are you and where do you live?  Maybe there is a women's monastery fairly close to you.  If not, maybe you could have a relationship with a monk, if not in person, at least by correspondence.  Some priests have no problem with your getting help from someone else.  Mine gave me his blessing to  correspond with a ROCOR priest (I'm OCA) who prior to becoming a priest was a therapist and I need some help getting past a couple of things, and I think he may be able to give me some advice. 

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« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2005, 12:42:48 PM »

Jennifer
I am glad that you talked to your priest. If you can ascertain for certain that he holds no dislike for you (which you seem to have done) and that he is not "fast-tracking" others while holding you back unnecessarily, then trust him and follow his guidance.

It sounds like there was just some bad communication going on, maybe part your fault, part his.

But - stay in communication with him. Be like the woman in the parable imploring the unjust judge (not to imply that he is unjust, just that you should force him to communicate).

If you have only been attending regularly for 6 months, perhaps he feels you need to trravel through the  church year at least once and maybe get a couple of full lents under your belt, along with at least one Pascha as a catechumen.
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« Reply #25 on: February 16, 2005, 12:49:07 PM »

One other thing: your priest must be your pastor; he may or may not become your spiritual father.

I think some will disagree with me here on this point.

But think about it...if the priest is spiritual father to every member or the congreation, why throughout history have so many gone to monateries to find a spiritual father. You even may find a spiritual mother instead, as some have suggested above.

In a monastery, the head abbot or abbotess must be the spiritual father or mother of all the monastics in that monastery; but the flip side is not also necessarily the case: a parish priest is not necessarily the spiritual father of every member of the congreagtion.

But he is your pastor and spiritual guardian - so respect him and trust him, as it seems you are on the path to doing.
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« Reply #26 on: February 16, 2005, 12:59:52 PM »

You may need to find another church... in my GO parish, our priest was trained at St. Vlad's and he was more 'strict' than most GO priests about the time for the catechuminate.  Hence, one of the parishioners, a wife of a GO, went to his family's  GO church in another state and got Chrismated over a vacation there.  She'd been going to the GO church for years with her husband, and hence, after several months of formal study, she was ready.  Our priest was new and kind of wanted to be involved all the way. Anyhow, it's done, and she is Chrismated and going to our church.   
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« Reply #27 on: March 08, 2005, 06:57:57 PM »

I have been attending services regularly (at first every Sunday Liturgy, then every Saturday All-Night Vigil too, and later also some weekdays Liturgies and Akathists whenever possible) since March 3, 2003. Two years, and I have not been baptized yet, neither has my priest scheduled my Baptism.

In my parish, this is usual. My priest normally requires at least two years of regular attendance and practice by every catechumen before Baptism. Many other convert parishioners had been required three, four years, or sometimes even more. This period varies according to the personal development of each catechumen, but my priest usually requires a quite long catechumenate from every inquirer.

I see no problem with it at all. Actually, I do not feel myself ready to get baptized right now. One of the advantages of taking a few years (instead of a few months, or even a few weeks) of catechumenate, for instance, is that I am learning how to fast. I think the traditional fasting rules of the Church are too strict to be suddenly applied to the life of a person who is not used to them; it is better to approach that strictness gradually. At least that was the case for me. In my second year as a catechumen, I was able to keep a fast closer to the traditional standard than my first-year fasting. I hope that, when I get baptized, I will already be able to fast as prescribed by the traditional rules of the Typikon. As I am very slow to get used to anything, I need at least a few years to reach this point.

Still more important: I am not sure that I have developed a fully Orthodox mindset, i.e., I don-¦t know if I still have unorthodox beliefs and opinions formed during my previous years of involvement with a number of heterodox or non-Christian religious doctrines, practices and philosophies. Given the supreme sanctity of the Holy Gifts, I wish to approach them at least as a man of Orthodox faith -- unworthy and wicked as I am, but at the very least as a man who confess the True Faith. And I feel I need time to assess and hold this Faith, to detect and erase all the vestiges of heterodoxy that possibly still live in my soul -- of which I am not aware. So I am not in a hurry at all.

I feel I can trust in my priest; I feel he knows the proper time to me. I don-¦t know if such a confidence in one-¦s own priest is a universal experience, but I wish it may be.
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« Reply #28 on: March 08, 2005, 09:55:07 PM »

Thanx for sharing your experience with this issue, Felipe Ortiz...it has given me a lot to think about, re: length of catechumenate. At the end of the day, I will trust my priest if he says I am ready even if I'm not so sure (since I have a history of scrupulousness, which can be just as bad as pride in my experience), but yours is a different perspective on the issue that I can appreciate. Smiley
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« Reply #29 on: March 08, 2005, 10:56:03 PM »

This talk of being "ready" for chrismation reminds me of what Fr. Schmemann says in Great Lent about frequent communion.  The fact is that none of us are "worthy" or even "ready" to become Orthodox.  I think dragging out the catechumenate sends the wrong message.  IMHO it sends the message that we can make ourself "ready" to receive God's grace through the Sacraments.  There's nothing we can to make ourselves.  God makes us ready.  I'm not arguing for chrismating anyone who walks in the door.  Of course there must be some preparation.  But making people wait years is wrong, IMHO.  I would venture to guess that the parishes where catechumens are forced to wait years are also parishes where people don't receive the Eucharist regularly. 

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« Reply #30 on: March 09, 2005, 12:25:21 AM »

Quote
One other thing: your priest must be your pastor; he may or may not become your spiritual father.

I think that's a really important distinction. 


I know a lot of folks here disagree with me, but I think you need to think about jurisdiction and bishops.  All of us here can give you lots of free advice, but you get what you pay for.  Go to a monastery and find a spiritual director who can give you real advice.  A word of warning, though, sometimes it's not always east to get accept good advice gracefully.  Smiley
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« Reply #31 on: March 09, 2005, 12:34:36 AM »

Jennifer,

I agree with what you say about how one can never fully prepare and make ourselves worthy of the Sacraments on our own, but a person has to come to that realisation at least. If a potential convert is overly eager to enter the Church and does not recognise their own unworthiness, then perhaps they're not ready. I understand what you're saying about it not making sense to wait years, because while one has to understand the basic teachings of the Church and follow in faith and humility, one can not expect to enter the Church as a saint. We have to convert our hearts every day, else whether you're a recent convert, catechumen, or cradle Orthodox, you still fall short and you will always have a lot to learn.
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« Reply #32 on: March 09, 2005, 12:50:29 AM »

Sounds like ortho profiling.....

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For He was made man that we might be made God.


« Reply #33 on: March 09, 2005, 11:38:09 AM »

The fact is that none of us are "worthy" or even "ready" to become Orthodox. (...) IMHO it sends the message that we can make ourself "ready" to receive God's grace through the Sacraments. There's nothing we can to make ourselves. God makes us ready.

Reading your post, I-¦ve realized that actually the (perhaps improper) emphasis in "getting ready" is mine. When my priest is asked about the lenght of the catechumenate, he mentions less one-¦s preparation than one-¦s commitment with Orthodoxy. My priest baptizes an inquirer when he realizes that the catechumen is indeed commited with Orthodoxy, that his interest in the Church is not a transitory dazzle with beautiful superficials but a life-long, conscious and (as far as possible) dispassionate answer to a spiritual calling. This is the reason he wants us to feel a bit of "discomfort": with the strictness of the fasts, with the long prayers, with the adoption of a disciplined way of life, with the negative reaction of some (or many) of our non-Orthodox relatives and friends, with the unpleasant process of reviewing our former ideas and mindset: in a brief, with the consecration of our whole life and being to God. He wants his catechumens to  get a foretaste of the narrow way of Orthodox Christianity, so that they may be really aware that it is not only a nice temple, sweet hymns and an awesome atmosphere, but a hard path of tears, humbleness and self-denial. I agree with him that some time is necessary in order that a dazzled inquirer may realize this clearly.

I remember having read somewhere (perhaps in Fr. Alexander Schmemann-¦s The Great Lent) that in the early Church, as far as we know, the catechumenate often took a few years. I also remember (while I-¦m not sure if this analogy is completely suitable here) that even the Holy Apostles were in the presence of Our Lord during three years and a half, being taught and spiritually nurtured by the Master himself, before they received the Holy Spirit at the Whit Sunday. So I do not think that a somewhat long catechumenate is necessarily improper. It may be; it may send a wrong message, as you pointed out; but it may also send a very true and salutary message, a realist figure of Orthodoxy, and all will depend on the spirit that presides the relationship between the catechumen and his pastor. (It is somewhat hard to me to describe this kind of thing in words, specially in a language that is foreign to me such as English; so please forgive me if my remarks are not as clear as they should be.)


I would venture to guess that the parishes where catechumens are forced to wait years are also parishes where people don't receive the Eucharist regularly.

In my parish, many of the people of Russian ancestry tend not to commune often, specially among the aged ones (while some do so); but the converts generally tend to commune regularly, once a month at least.
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