By Diana Klein
The first weekend of Lent (20 – 21 February 2010) saw 375 catechumens and 422 candiates take the penultimate step in their journey to become Catholics in the Diocese of Westminster.
Drawn from 131 parishes in the diocese, they were at Westminster Cathedral for the Rite of Election, an ancient ceremony for adults choosing to be Catholics. The ceremony saw catechumens (those who are preparing to be baptised) and candidates (those who are already baptised) being “sent forth” by their bishops to prepare to be received into parish churches across the diocese.
(Photographs of the Rite of Election can be downloaded by visiting the link at the bottom of the page)
Each year, sponsors, catechists and parish priests accompany catechumens, who have been preparing to become Catholic for some time. This is a momentous event for the catechumens.
At the Rite of Election, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols asked the sponsors about the transformation which has taken place in these people. He asked if they have faithfully listened to God’s Word proclaimed by the Church. In other words, he asked if they have been catechised, if they have come to a suitable knowledge of dogma and an intimate understanding of the mystery of salvation.
The Archbishop asked if they have responded to that Word and begun to walk in God’s presence. There is the closest connection between what we believe and how we live. We don’t first know Jesus and then follow him. Their experience of trying to live the Christian way will have thrown up discoveries, challenges and questions for them. The Archbishop wants to know that they have shared the company of their Christian brothers and sisters and joined them in prayer; he wants to know that they have begun to live the Christian way.
Prayers and affection
Then the assembly gathered were asked by the Archbishop if they are ready to support the testimony expressed about these catechumens, he asked if they will include them in their prayers and affection as we move to Easter. And, when the questions were answered, he said that the Church, in the name of Christ, accepted the judgment of the godparents and the community and he 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.
Candidates - the already Baptised
There is another group of people at the Cathedral on the first weekend of Lent – those who have already been baptised. There is a growing awareness of the importance and need to make the distinction between those who are baptised and those who are not baptised. This group of people are being called to continuing conversion. They may have been baptised in another Christian church; they may have been baptised as Catholics but they have not been confirmed and/or received the Eucharist. The Archbishop recognises their desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at the Eucharistic table – and he invites them to hear the Lord’s call to conversion and invites them to be faithful to their baptismal covenant.
Let us pray for all of them!