Who am I?: The Catechumenate as Forum for Life’s Questions

One of the aims of FormingLutherans.org is to “promote and make available to the LCMS and the larger church the enlivening resources of proven and tested formation practices.” One way to accomplish that goal is to post regularly on resources that can increase knowledge and familiarity with catechumenal practices. So, on a regular basis we will post about what we are reading currently on the catechumenate. (Those who have attended one of our conferences will find most of these resources on the bibliography prepared by Rev. Danny Eggold; hopefully we can make that available on FormingLutherans.org). I (Kent) am currently reading Presbyterian minister and professor Paul Galbreath’s book Leading through the Waters. Published in 2011, the book aims to inform and reshape the distinctive way of life (as Galbreath conceives it) within the Christian community by grounding that way of life in baptismal practice and theology. Central to baptismal practice for Galbreath is the modern form of the catechumenate. He links baptism and the Christian way of life through the formative pattern of the four traditional catechumenate stages: Inquiry, Preparation, Baptism, and Reflection. Given Galbreath’s aim, he is focused less upon the sacramental impact upon the one being baptized, and more on the ritually formative power of baptismal practice for the congregation that participates in and administers baptisms. Not surprisingly, he begins his first section by reflecting upon a font in Pampulha, Brazil that is in the shape of a huge question mark. Galbreath notes the appropriateness, since in our relationship to God and to the world our entire lives are in a sense a big question mark. He says, “I will be exploring baptism as a life-long journey, as a question mark that hovers over us, constantly prodding us to examine our lives and our relationships with God, with one another, and with the earth that God created” (p. 9). The catechumenate is the best environment for exploring life as one giant question mark. And it helps us to recognize that this is the ongoing nature of human life in relationship with the God who created us. Throughout life we will be asking questions within the Christian community, both of one another and of ourselves, about who we are, who God is, why we are here, and where we are going? Asking and seeking answers to these questions—a repetitive pattern—is the occasion for growth in life before God and in communion with sisters and brothers in Christ. The catechumenate is the safe place to let the questions fly. Next time we post on a catechumenate resource we’ll explore Galbreath’s understanding of the period of Inquiry in the catechumenate.