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neophyte

ne·o·phyte / ˈnēəˌfīt/ • n. a person who is new to a subject, skill, or belief: four-day cooking classes are offered to neophytes and experts. ∎  a new convert to a religion. ∎  a novice in a religious order, or a newly ordained priest.

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neophyte

neophyte XVI. — ecclL. neophytus — N.T. Gr. neóphtos ‘newly planted’, f. néos NEO- + phutón plant (n. of pp. formation on phúein cause to be (see BE)).

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neophyte

neophyte •graphite • prizefight • dogfight •cockfight • neophyte • saprophyte •bullfight • gunfight • firefight •gesundheit • Fahrenheit • malachite •blatherskite

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Neophyte

NEOPHYTE

From the Greek νεόφυτος, meaning newly planted, a term found once in the New Testament (1 Tm 3.6). It came into use in the Church to designate those newly converted from paganism or from any non-Christian sect, and later, by extension, was applied to those recently admitted to the religious or clerical states. The term in its earlier use contained an obvious allusion to the new planting or engrafting of the convert by baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ. The use of the word was extended later to describe those newly admitted to the clerical or monastic life (Gregory I, Patrologia Latina: Epistles ; 77:784); and in both senses it passed into Corpus iuris canonici (D.48.1.2). It is also used more generally to refer to someone newly engaged in a particular work or career.

St. Paul cautioned against the laying of hands on neophytes to make them bishops, lest their lack of experience in the faith render them arrogant or deficient; and the Council of nicaea i (325) formally condemned the ordination or consecration of a neophyte as an abuse that encouraged clerical ambition or promoted the vanity of the people who desired to have a prominent personage as their bishop. jerome (Patrologia Latina: Ad Oceanum, 22:663); gregory of nazianzus (Patrologia Graeca, 35:1090); and gregory i (Patrologia Latina, 77:103037) also inveighed against this practice, although during the 4th and 5th centuries there were notable exceptions, such as Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, Synesius of Cyrene, and Nestorius of Constantinople.

In the 4th century the term covered catechumens who had put off the reception of baptism until adulthood and upon being baptized, usually on the vigil of Easter or Pentecost, were clothed in white garments for eight days, given the traditio legis Christi, the kiss of peace (osculum pacis ), anointed for confirmation, and admitted to reception of the Eucharist.

During the Middle Ages special care was paid to converts who through their change in religion were frequently deprived of position. Richard, the prior of Bermondsey, founded a hospital of converts in 1213; this was imitated by the Dominicans at Oxford, and Henry III established a domus conversorum in London for catechumens and neophyte Jews. The Council of basel in 1431 prescribed a manner of procedure for neophytes (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Concilliorum nova et amplissima collectio 29:99101). St. ignatius of loyola occasioned the erection of a casa dei neofiti at Rome in 1543, and gregory xiii built the house still standing near the Church of the Madonna dei Monti for the same purpose (May 20, 1580).

Local councils in the New World prescribed that after their baptism converts should be given special instructions including the four prayers Pater, Ave, Credo, and Salve Regina (Conc. of Mexico, 1555, c. 1; Synod of Quito, 1570). While the first political junta in Mexico (1524) had apparently forbidden the giving of the Eucharist to native neophytes even as Viaticum, paul iii declared that the natives were true human beings endowed with reason and should be admitted to the Sacraments (Veritas ipsa, June 2, 1537), and in 1567 the Council of Lima prescribed the giving of Paschal Communion and Viaticum to the neophytes. A similar problem in India was settled by alexander vii (Jan. 18, 1658). In 1645 and 1656 Propaganda declared that the Chinese neophytes were obliged to observe the Church's law concerning the reception of the Sacraments and fasting. In modern missionary work, special care is given to the postbaptismal formation of neophytes.

In the development of Canon Law the status of a neophyte was considered an irregularity (ex defectu fidei ) for the reception of orders; but the Code treated it as merely a simple impediment (1917 Codex Iuris Canonicis cc.987n6, 542n2).

Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie (Paris 190753) 12.1:110307. r. naz, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, v.6 (Paris 193565) 997. j. schmidlin, Catholic Mission Theory, tr. m. braun (Techny, Ill. 1931).

[p. k. meagher/

j. beaudry]

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