As archbishop, it is my privilege to preside at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion each Lent. Yesterday and again next Sunday combined, over 1,100 individuals from all over the archdiocese will have filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for this celebration. As these adults and young people publicly profess their intention to become full members of the Catholic Church, in this Rite we in turn welcome and promise to accompany them on their faith journey which leads to new life at the Easter Vigil and beyond.
We celebrate amidst scaffolding as work progresses on the Trinity Dome overhead. It is fitting that a visible reminder of the Holy Trinity that reigns over all will stand above those who enter this magnificent Basilica. It is “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” that these catechumens will be baptized, and it is a share in the blessed life of the Trinity that is God’s gift to his adopted children.
Each person at this liturgy has been called by name. These catechumens and candidates have responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and through a journey of prayer and study at their local parishes have come to declare their desire to say “yes” to God’s call to be his disciples. In a powerful way, the Rite of Election models God’s call as the name of each catechumen is called. But just as we are not born the first time by ourselves, neither are we born the second time by water and Spirit alone. Faith and baptism are something we receive as gift (Lumen Fidei, 41). As Saint Paul points out, “How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14). And so, as they approach the sanctuary, each catechumen and candidate is accompanied by a Godparent or sponsor who likewise has been called, in addition to members of their local parishes who accompany, pray and journey with them throughout the Rite of Christian Initiation process. In a particular way, these sponsors stand ready to proclaim their confidence in the catechumens and candidates as they promise to support these who will be the newest members of the Church.
As we offer our witness to them, the women and men that we happily welcome into our spiritual family as sisters and brothers in a very real way serve as witnesses to us. They are a living reminder to continually seek Jesus who is our salvation and joy, and to pray for the wisdom and courage to strive to conform our lives to Christ.
Please join me in praying for these catechumens and candidates in these days leading to the joy of Easter. We pray as well for all those who may be seeking the Risen Lord and have not yet heard his call.