Augustine and the RCIA of today.
Augustine is respected and loved by the Christian church for his many roles, but his role as a catechist has been among the least well known.
The Roman Catholic Church in 1972 launched its Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
This was not a new idea as much as it was the return to a proven practice in the church of the fifth century, in which Ambrose of Milan
and Augustine of Hippo were exponents of this RCIA process.
To state it more appropriately, the RCIA of 1972 is basically an adoption of the catechumenate of the early church (i.e. the process by which a group is prepared for baptism), particularly of the form that the process reached at its high point in the fourth century.
The catechumenate as practised by Augustine is well documented because he wrote a number of treatises on the subject of catechesis and the catechumenate.
He is the only Patristic (i.e., from the early Church) author from whom there still exist samples of each of the four stages of the ancient catechumenate.
As well, within the past sixty years there have been many archaeological and textual discoveries that offer much detailed information about Augustine and his church practices in Hippo.
The sermons of Augustine are another major source of current knowledge of his catechetical method and content.
listening to Augustine was often swept up by his rhetoric.
There was variously applauding, weeping, cheering, and the shouting out Bible verses as Augustine preached.
It is known how Augustine approached each step of the catechumenate process (as now duplicated in today's RCIA model) : evangelization, catechumenate, candidate for Baptism (Lenten catechesis), and then post-baptismal catechesis.
Especially via his instructions to catechists in his treatise, De Catechandis rudibus
(for which see on a previous Augnet page on this topic), Augustine made every effort to reach out to each catechumen.
For him, reaching both the head and the heart was the goal, neither whipping up hearers into an emotional fever nor overloading them precipitately with great quantities of material.