Lent evolved out of the preparation for baptism. Those preparing for baptism were known as catechumens. This word comes from the Greek word which means “to instruct.” A catechumen spent several years preparing for baptism. A sponsor walked this journey with them and helped them to transform their lifestyle to become more like Christ. Catechumens attended Liturgy of the Word with the rest of the Christian community, but when it came time to share the meal, they were “dismissed” because they were not yet members of the community through baptism.
Many of you may have observed this “dismissal” of our own catechumens at the 9:30am Mass. Following the homily, the presider calls them forward to send them forth to “Break Open the Word” together. A facilitator accompanies them to another room as the Liturgy of the Word is continued with them. They listen to the Gospel proclaimed again and enter into a sharing of faith around the gospel, which concludes with intercessory prayer. This experience of “Breaking Open the Word” is both powerful and deep. To listen to our catechumens, many of whom have never been immersed in the Gospels, share their insights and how they believe God is calling them to live, is nothing less than inspiring.
Our RCIA class is made up of several groups. Our catechumens who have never been baptized, our candidates for Full Communion in the Catholic Church who have been baptized in another faith tradition, and the candidates for Confirmation who have been baptized Catholic but not raised in any faith tradition. There is also a sponsor who journeys with each of them and attends all the sessions, retreats and rituals. Lastly, we have a dozen team members. Each Tuesday, we have 70-80 people at The Basilica as a part of this process.
Like our ancestors, our catechumens and candidates have completed a substantial period of formation and are now being asked to discern if they are responding to God’s call in their desire to seek initiation in the Catholic Church. We have shared the beauty, truth and wisdom of that which we profess in the creed with them and now they must listen in their hearts for the voice of God.
This weekend they spent time together on a retreat which culminated at the 5:00pm Mass where they celebrated the Rite of Sending. We accept and applaud their courage and conviction and send them to our Bishop with our affirmation of their sincerity. Our presider will invite them to sign the Book of the Elect as a symbol of our support and love for them.
Our community then sends them forth to the Bishop for the Rite of Election to be celebrated on Sunday at 1:30pm at The Basilica. All the catechumens and candidates from the Archdiocese gather together, half at the Cathedral and half at The Basilica, to celebrate the Rite of Election. Bishop Lee Piche, in the name of the entire Church, will accept the catechumens and those seeking full communion with us and exhort them to continue and intensify their journey of conversion in preparation for their reception into the Church at Easter.
And, like our ancestors, the “Elect” will now enter the period of prayer and purification for the Easter sacraments which we call Lent.
Your role in the process of initiation is essential. Your acceptance by your involvement and attention to the rites has had a significant impact upon them; they have shared how deeply moved they feel by your support. We ask that you keep them in your prayers. At the doors of the church are cards with their photos and names on them. Please take one or more and pray for them. You also can communicate with them by writing them a note of encouragement and placing it in the collection basket with their name on it noting “RCIA.”
We are so blessed to be experiencing so many who want to join our faith because they have witnessed the way you live it out in your own lives. Thank you for being such a credible witness of God’s love for us all.