By Peggy Lovrien
Special to The Witness
The woman stood in the aisle of the church with her godparent behind her. She had just been “elected” to receive the sacraments of initiation at Easter. With tears of great joy and a wide smile, she proudly stood and took in the wonder and power of God and of the liturgical experience. As the presider offered the prayer for the elect, it was evident that she was filled with the Holy Spirit. I gazed upon her and marveled at the light in her countenance – God is working in her life. My love for the church and the richness of its liturgical celebrations overcame me as everyone in the church sang the acclamation in fullness of faith, “Blessed be God who calls you by name, holy and chosen one!”
This past weekend, the Archdiocese of Dubuque welcomed 72 catechumens to the Rite of Election. Each one is on a journey recognizing the ways God is acting in their lives. They are adults, teens and children who are guided through the liturgical year celebrating the story of Jesus through the Liturgy of the Word at Sunday’s Mass.
You might have seen them in your own parish. They are the ones who are dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word. They meet with their catechist who guides them in a prayerful discussion asking, “What did you see because of the Gospel today? What did you hear? How is God reaching out to you today through the Scriptures? What did you understand from the homily?” The catechist’s questions help the catechumen to recognize the presence of God in his or her life and how God calls the catechumen to express faith in the Catholic community. The focus is Sunday as the catechumen learns—through action—to form a new habit, that is, to participate in Sunday worship.
The catechumen’s status in the church changes during the Rite of Election. From now on, she or he will be called “the elect.” During the weeks of Lent, they prepare for initiation into the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil where they will celebrate baptism, confirmation and first holy Communion with the parishioners whose faith, active participation and discipleship have inspired them along the way. Members of the local parish pray, every week, that their faith will remain steadfast.
At the same liturgy, adults previously baptized in another Christian tradition but now want to join the Catholic faith, stood in the assembly to be recognized. They are on a similar journey in some ways to the elect.
They are learning the weekly habit of active participation in Sunday’s liturgy, how to ponder the word of God; but, because they are baptized, they stay among the faithful to witness the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Their hunger for the Eucharist grows as they witness Catholics participating actively in the eucharistic prayer and in holy Communion. They follow their fellow Catholic Christians beyond the liturgy to learn how to solidify their discipleship in daily life. They are learning how to be the presence of Christ in works of charity and compassion. This past weekend, 80 candidates stood in our midst. They represent only a few of the many who profess faith in the Catholic faith throughout the liturgical year.
Let us pray for and remember these 152 people who begin their lives as Catholics this Easter. During Lent, take time to reach out to them in your parish, introduce yourself to let them know they have a faith community around them. Invite them to brunch after Sunday’s liturgy and invite them to share in your acts of charity and compassion that you do in the name of Christ. You are an important and influential person in their tender new lives of faith. Help us all to strengthen their faith and inspire their discipleship!
Lovrien is the director of worship for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
The Blessed Trinity Cluster candidates for RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) attended the Rite of Election on Sunday, Feb. 18 at St. Raphael Cathedral. Candidates are (l-r) Kelly Glanz, Andrea Brown, Allison Ryan and Dusty Dryden. They will receive the sacraments of holy Eucharist and confirmation on Holy Saturday. (Contributed photos)