A day of oy for Catholics
THOUSANDS OF people have gathered to pray in Catholic cathedrals across England and Wales to support and welcome those people preparing to join the Catholic Church.
The Rite of Election is a significant step for those who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
Election in our contemporary culture often signifies a contest or our choosing something or somebody.
The Rite is not about the candidates choosing the Sacraments of Initiation, rather, as in the great scriptural tradition of election, it is about God’s choice of the person.
For Christians this is the call to embrace the mission of Jesus, the mission of God’s Kingdom.
At the Rite of Election, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster asked the sponsors about the transformation which has taken place in these people. He asked if they had faithfully listened to God’s Word proclaimed by the Church. In other words, he asked if they had been catechised, if they have come to a suitable knowledge of dogma and an intimate understanding of the mystery of salvation. Then the Archbishop asked the assembly if they were ready to support the testimony expressed about the catechumens. He asked if they would include them in their prayers and affection as we moved to Easter.
When the people had answered the questions, the Archbishop said that the Church, in the name of Christ, accepted the judg ment of the godparents and the community. He then asked the catechumens if they wanted to enter into the life of the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. The catechumens were then declared to be members of the “elect” to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil.
There was another group of people at the Cathedral on the first weekend of Lent – those who have already been baptised. An aware ness is growing of the importance and need to make a distinction between those who are baptised and those who are not baptised. This group of people are being called to continuing conversion.
The Archbishop recognised their desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at the Eucharistic table – and he invited them to hear the Lord’s call to conversion and invited them to be faithful to their baptismal covenant. One of the catechumens, Gerry, attended the Rite of Election last weekend and said: “Although my life wasn’t empty or bankrupt, there were definitely some deficiencies there. Coming along to St Teresa’s and meeting people there, it has elevated who I am.” Meanwhile, Jessica said: “My family is close but going to church together brings another dimension to our lives. It is a community thing. It has made a difference for the better... So many times we are afraid of rejection and I was welcomed as if I was just what people were looking for. It was wonderful.” Malcolm said: “It really has been a fabulous experience. I am really looking forward to Easter Sunday when I will finally be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ as a member of the Catholic Church. I would thoroughly recommend the Catholic Faith to anyone who wants to fully embrace Jesus, Our Lord.” By diocese, the numbers for the Rite of Election are as follows: Westminster 797, Arundel and Brighton 180, Brentwood 306, Cardiff 80, Clifton 84, East Anglia 65, Hallam 75, Hexham and Newcastle 120, Lancaster 43, Leeds 109, Liverpool 121, Menevia 24, Middlesbrough 91, Northampton 110 (plus 12 children), Nottingham 127, Plymouth 130, Portsmouth 201, Salford 128, Shrewsbury 115, Southwark 517, Wrexham 15.
Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton is chairman of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis.
He said: “The growing numbers of people coming forward to become members of the Catholic community give the lie to those who suggest that religion is gasping its last breath.
“On the first weekend of Lent, cathedrals across England and Wales will have seen excited, nervous and happy adults and young people looking forward to full membership of the Catholic community.”