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    No. 14 of Ad Gentes proclaims that the catechumenate should be the ordinary way in which
people who are not infants become members of the Church.  It was Vatican II, in the
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 64), which decreed the
restoration of the catechumenate in its full, ancient form.  By doing so, it culminated a process
that had been going on for some time to order the method of entrance into the Church, give it a
liturgical place in the Church, and make it more than just an intellectual learning of the truths
of the Faith.  The first sentence of no. 14 explains that the catechumenate should be an
experience similar to the novitiate in religious communities, i.e. a time to get to know the Church
and to practice its way of living.

“Those who have received from God the gift of faith in Christ, through the Church, should
be admitted with liturgical rites to the catechumenate which is not a mere exposition of
dogmatic truths and norms of morality, but a period of formation in the whole Christian
life, an apprenticeship of sufficient duration during which the disciples will be joined to
Christ their teacher.”

    In restoring the catechumenate, the Council Fathers were very conscious of the missions. 
They wanted the rite to be able to accept and “baptize” any elements of initiation rites found
in the missions that were not contrary to Christian teaching or morals (cf. Sacrosanctum
Concilium, nos. 38, 65).  But, more than that, they saw the catechumenate as also the entrance of
the newly baptized into missionary life, i.e. by baptism the new Christians would themselves
become missionaries: “Since the life of the Church is apostolic, the catechumens must learn to
cooperate actively in the building up of the Church and in its work of evangelization, both by
the example of their lives and the profession of their faith.”

    The Council Fathers also wanted the catechumenate to be clearly defined in the new Code of
Canon Law.  The Code was revised after Vatican II and republished in 1983.  There the
catechumenate is anchored, first of all, in the missionary activity of the Church (Book III,
Title II, Missionary Activity, Canon 788), where it is treated as one of the steps toward the
goal of missionary activity, which is to add new members to the Church.   It also speaks about
the catechumenate in Book IV, Title I, Baptism (Canons 849-878), as part of the normal
preparation for baptism (Canon 851, 1°), and as one of the requirements for an adult to be
baptized (Canon 865, §1).

    The Council Fathers considered the catechumens as already joined to the Church.  They
quoted St. Augustine on this (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 11, 4): “Because catechumens
have the sign of the cross on their foreheads, they are already from the great house [i.e. the
Church]; but let them become sons from servants.  For they are not to be thought of as nothing
who already belong to the great house.”