by Michael Podrebarac
This Sunday, March 1, and next Thursday, March 5, hundreds of catechumens and candidates for full communion, with their sponsors and families, will participate in the annual Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
This liturgical service, part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), is the last “big step” before the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening.
On Ash Wednesday, they began, with all of us, the observation of Lent, the great 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
For us Catholics, it’s a time to renew the faith that many of us have kept for decades. For those seeking to become Catholic Christians, it serves as a “final lap” toward professing a faith that is intended to be kept for decades to come.
Three regional services — one in Topeka, one in Kansas City and one in Olathe — will see the catechumens “elected” to receive the sacraments by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the candidates formally welcomed by the archbishop into the church’s Lenten observances.
Following introductory rites and a Liturgy of the Word similar to those at Mass, the archbishop will enjoy the “privilege” (his word each year) speaking to both catechumens and candidates in his homily.
He will thank them for answering God’s call to seek a deeper relationship with Jesus. He will thank the faith communities of the candidates for full communion who raised them to believe in Jesus.
He will thank their families, and especially their sponsors, for supporting them in their quest for Jesus.
And he will underscore the beauty of faith and the Christian life within our Catholic tradition. For some in attendance, it will be the only time they hear a bishop preach.
Then, the archbishop will query the catechumens (and their sponsors) as to their intentions and readiness to enter the penultimate step toward the Easter sacraments.
As a sign of their commitment, each catechumen will come forward and sign his or her name into the Book of the Elect, after which Archbishop Naumann will declare them to be the elect of the Easter sacraments.
The candidates (and their sponsors) will also be asked about their intentions and readiness.
Because they already belong to the church through baptism, they will be welcomed by the archbishop to receive the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil, thus completing their communion with the Catholic Church.
This service of inquiry and acclamation, of reflection and affirmation, is steeped in the prayerful support and affection of all gathered to celebrate these beautiful rites.
Let each of us add to our Lenten prayers our own intercessions for those who are making their final preparations for a fuller sharing in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.