Every year at this time, I have the pleasure of celebrating the Rite of Election in our cathedrals. This past Sunday, I also celebrated the Rite of Election at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame since the students there who are preparing for Baptism will be on spring break when we celebrate the Rite of Election at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral.
What is the Rite of Election? It is the second step in Christian initiation. It follows the lengthy period of the catechumenate during which those preparing for Baptism are formed in the Christian life and learn the teachings of the Catholic faith. The Rite of Election takes place early in the season of Lent. It marks the beginning of the catechumens’ final and more intense preparation for the sacraments of initiation.
At the Rite of Election, the catechumens, who are thereafter called “the elect,” express their free intention to receive the sacraments of the Church. Their names are inscribed in the Book of the Elect. That is why the Rite of Election is also called the “Enrollment of Names.”
During the ceremony of the Rite of Election, the godparents of “the elect” are asked to testify that the candidates are worthy to be admitted to the sacraments of Christian initiation, that they have faithfully listened to the word of God and have responded to that word with faith. The godparents also pledge to support and pray for them as they prepare to celebrate the Easter sacraments.
During the ceremony, all the people present also affirm their willingness to support the elect through their prayers and support. It is important that throughout our diocese during the season of Lent we remember in prayer the hundreds of men and women in our diocese who are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.
During the liturgy of the Rite of Election, we also celebrate the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates who are preparing for Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church. These are people who have already been baptized in other Christian communities and are preparing to enter the Catholic Church and to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. They, like the catechumens, have been studying the Catholic faith. They are already Christians since they were baptized. Their journey of faith has led them to the Catholic Church. They desire to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
During the ceremony of the Call to Continuing Conversion, the candidates’ sponsors testify that they are ready to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, that they have advanced in the Christian life through prayer and reflection. The whole community present affirms their prayers and support for the candidates as they prepare to receive the Holy Eucharist and Confirmation.
It is moving for me to witness the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the over 600 adults of our diocese who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church. They have been touched by God’s grace in a variety of ways. They will soon be entering into a deep and abiding communion with Christ through entrance into His Church. Soon they will participate with us at the holy banquet of the Eucharist. It is important that we remember them in our prayers during the Lenten season and also that we welcome them with love in our parish communities.
I am very grateful to the priests and faithful of our diocese who serve in the RCIA process in our parishes, including those who teach the catechumens and candidates and those who accompany them as godparents or sponsors. Your witness to the faith is an essential part of the preparation and catechesis of these men and women.
The RCIA process and the Rites that are part of the process remind all of us that “the sacraments of initiation lay the foundations of every Christian life” (CCC 1212). Our life of faith is founded on the Word of God and nourished by it. It involves our assent to that Word, what is called “the obedience of faith.” We freely assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. Faith is also “a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him” (CCC 153). The season of Lent, a season of conversion, is a special time to grow in faith through a process of purification. As we accompany those preparing for the sacraments of initiation, we also resolve to be converted anew to the Lord in our own lives.
Let us all remember to pray for the elect and the candidates during the season of Lent. I will be praying for them and for all of us during this holy season. Through our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, may we all progress in our lives of faith. Of course, this is all the work of God’s grace.
We are all on the road that leads to the glory of Easter. May the Lord Jesus be our way, our truth, and our life!
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