A period of purification and enlightenment.
Nearly all Christians observe Lent as a time of prayer, penance, fasting and almsgiving. But for individuals on a journey through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, this period also denotes significant steps toward full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.
Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis, noted that Lent also is a time for substantial spiritual growth for RCIA candidates, who have already been baptized in Catholic or recognized Protestant communities but never received first Eucharist and/or confirmation, and catechumens, who have not previously been baptized.
"They need to have time to contemplate, meditate and be with the Lord," Dundas said of RCIA participants, especially during Lent, as they prepare to make a lifetime commitment to God and the Catholic Church.
A significant Lenten event for the candidates and catechumens are Masses celebrating the Rite of Election & Call to Continuing Conversion. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano will celebrate these liturgies at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Feb. 14 and at St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads on Feb. 21.
According to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Study Edition, through the Rite of Election, the church makes its "election" of these catechumens to receive the sacraments of initiation, and calls candidates to continuing conversion as they prepare for the sacraments of confirmation and/or Eucharist as part of entering full communion with the church.
During the Mass, catechumens inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect as they affirm their desire to enter fully into the life of the church, the RCIA study guide notes. At this point, the catechumens are called "the elect."
"We do not refer to them as the ‘elect’ because they have elected to become Catholic," explained Cathy Kamp, a pastoral associate at Penfield’s St. Joseph Parish who heads up its RCIA program. "They are the ‘elect’ of God … (who) has given them the gift of faith. This is what we celebrate in the Rite of Election as they are presented to the bishop and as the catechumens sign their names in the books of enrollment."
Following the Rite of Election, Kamp added, "we ask the candidates to reflect on their baptism and the catechumens to spend quiet time with God in light of their upcoming baptism."
EDITOR’S NOTE: See more of the Catholic Courier’s special project on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at www.catholiccourier.com/photo-video/special-projects/the-journey-through-rcia.