This past weekend (the second Sunday of Lent), we celebrated the final two Rites of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, at Holy Name Cathedral. They were wonderful celebrations!
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is the Liturgy by which the catechumens (those who are unbaptized) are “elected” for baptism at this next Easter Vigil – hence the title, “Rite of Election.” As Bishop Wypych noted, during his homily at the Rite last Sunday evening, this is the Liturgy in which the Church publicly recognizes God’s choice of these catechumens for baptism. As the bishop pointed out, God has chosen them – and it’s in this Rite that the Church acknowledges God’s choice.
At the same time, in the Call to Continuing Conversion, the Church – through the Bishop – recognizes those baptized non-Catholics who seek to be received into the Full Communion of the Church.
This year, through the celebration of five of these Rites, over the course of three weekends, over 500 catechumens were elected for full initiation at Easter and some 600 candidates were recognized for their desire to enter into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church; These are powerful celebrations in which the presence and movement of the Holy Spirit is especially evident in the life of the Church in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
It is, literally, amazing to be at these Rites! As the catechumens are called forward for election and the candidates are called for recognition, they take their places in the sanctuary of Holy Name Cathedral. By the time they are all called forward, the sanctuary of the Cathedral is literally filled with them! Catechumens and Candidates from all over the archdiocese, from every parish, from every nationality and language are represented! All of them are seeking Christ and have found him in the parish communities that sponsor them! These Rites are, truly, celebrations of The Church!
At one point in the Rite, after the Bishop has elected the Catechumens and has recognized the Candidates, he sends them back to their parishes in the pews of the Cathedral. As he does so, he admonishes the parishes, “These elect and these candidates have been entrusted to you in the Lord. By your loving care and good example continue to help them until they complete their initiation. They are God’s chosen ones now; share with them the peace of Christ.”
The Bishop’s words at the Rite are pertinent to all of us in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I encourage all readers, if you haven’t yet, to find out who the Elect and the Candidates are in your own parish. Learn their names! Once you have done so, I urge you to spend the rest of Lent praying for them! Support them in any way you can! If you see them at Mass on Sunday, be sure to go up to them and assure them that you are praying for them! If you see them in the grocery store during the week, be sure to go up to them and assure them that you are praying for them! If you see them on the street, be sure to go up to them and assure them that you are praying for them!
These are the people in our parishes who have fallen in love with Jesus Christ and who seek to be united to him in the Sacraments. As such, they are models to those of us who are already baptized, of what it means to be on fire with the Spirit of Christ. They are models to us of the conversion that all of us are called to during the season of Lent; the conversion that will deepen as we renew our Baptism at the Easter Vigil, or on Easter Sunday morning. At the same time, we are to be models to them of what it means to be committed disciples of Christ, of what it means to be Christian! They need us…and we need them!