Book Review: 

The Erwachsenenkatechumenat in den Vereinigten
Staaten von Amerika: Eine
Anregung fur die Sakramentenpastoral 
in Deutschland "  
by Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst

Like fish who never see the water, catechumenate ministers never fully appreciate the environment in which we live. It takes an outsider, someone from another world, to describe the water in which we swim. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst provides this service in a remarkable book, Der Erwachsenenkatechumenat in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika: Eine Anregung für die Sakramentenpastoral in Deutschland (Münsteraner Theologische Abhandlungen 28, Altenberge: Oros Verlag, 1993). Writing for a German audience, the author manages to attract the attention of the American reader, who will respond like people wishing to see their own snapshot taken for another's photo album.

Tebartz-van Elst intends to present to the German reader an explanation of the adaptation and implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in the United States. In doing so, he hopes his own compatriots will discover principles for their own application of this ministry.

The book surveys not just the religious landscape of the United States, but the social, cultural, and historical developments that give our nation its peculiar character. The author theorizes that our national personality has enfleshed the catechumenate with a process and spirit that give it life in American parishes. Our pragmatism, multiculturalism, marketing and storytelling all contribute to the way we initiate Christians. Amazingly, the German writer has a firmer grasp on the American psyche and its influences than many Americans do themselves. In his thoughtful analysis of the American scene, the author opens the door for critical thinking in his own homeland to make similar applications of the rite.

A hefty read (632 pp.), heavily footnoted, and amply documented with a sweeping bibliography, the book supplies familiar footing to the American reader with references to the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, articles and books which shape its mission, and the description of a process that seems as obvious as water to a fish.

This article was written for the North American Forum on the Catechumenate (2000).

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