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Notre Dame professor publishes study of Christian initiation rites

Author: Arts and Letters


“The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation,” by Maxwell E. Johnson, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, recently was published by the Liturgical Press of Collegeville, Minn.

A revised and expanded edition of a work Johnson published in 1999, Johnson’s new book draws on new translations of early texts on baptism as well as recent scholarship on the early traditions to provide a more comprehensive history and focused interpretation of the rites. It includes two chapters on Eastern and Western traditions before the Council of Nicea in the early 4th century and treats recent liturgical developments in American Protestant churches as well as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RICA) and the sacrament of Confirmation of Catholics.

According to Rev. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., the book provides “the best overall treatment of Christian initiation available,” and Johnson’s Notre Dame colleague in theology, Paul Bradshaw, predicts that it will become “the standard textbook on the subject for very many years to come.”

A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1997, Johnson is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Specializing in liturgical studies, he has written articles in a wide variety of scholarly, popular and pastoral pulications and is the author or editor of several books, including “The Prayers of Sarapion of Thmuis,” “Images of Baptism,” “Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year,” “The Virgin of Guadalupe: Theological Reflections of an Anglo-Lutheran Liturgist,” “Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy,” “Worship: Rites, Feasts, and Reflections” and “Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary.”

Originally published by Michael O. Garvey at on March 17, 2008.