The tremendous and fascinating Rite of Election

A small dark-skinned boy, about nine years old, stood in front of the bishop along with his godmother and a dozen or so other catechumens from his parish. He wore a black suit and a blue shirt with a black necktie. He had an American flag pinned to his lapel. His smile lit up the room, and when he heard his name called, he pushed out his chest and stood as tall as his tiny frame would allow. At that moment, he seemed to be the biggest person in the cathedral.

500 elect

He was one of about 500 catechumens in our diocese who joined the ranks of the elect during the three liturgies it required to fit them all in. Not all the catechumens were dressed in suits and ties. Some wore jeans and work boots because that was the best they had. Some wore jeans and work boots because that is a fashion statement for some millennials. Others wore stiletto heels and fine dresses. Some, and not just the young, had dyed or streaked their hair with neon or pastel colors not found in nature. Many were plainly clothed and adorned, showing no hint by their attire that anything special was happening.

Most spoke English, even if as a second or third language. Many spoke Spanish. Some spoke Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean, or Tagalog. If their faces were accurate portraits, some of these catechumens were excited and nervous. Others proud and dignified. Some bored and apathetic. Most seemed a bit dazed, overwhelmed by the crowds, the majesty of the cathedral, and the extraordinary strangeness of it all.

So much ritual

The music, the prayers, the homily, the movement, the symbols, the ritual were all directed at and done for these 500. Most of them, new to and inexperienced with Catholic ceremony, probably didn’t grasp much. The same will likely be true in these coming weeks as they celebrate the scrutinies in their parishes and their initiation at the Easter Vigil. It is all so much.

But the tremendous (to tremble) fascination (can’t look away; spellbound) — the “so muchness” — of it all is what they will remember. They will remember hearing their name, feeling touched, seeing more Christians than they thought possible, seeing fire light up the night, hearing so many songs, moving in new spaces and in new ways, being drenched and oiled, and making life-changing promises.

A promise of love

As I looked into the eyes of that little boy, one of thousands and thousands of those who have stood in that same spot as the bishop declared them to be among the chosen of God, I hoped that what he would remember most is love. The love of God, the love of his family, the love we, the church, have for him. He will, no doubt, have difficult days ahead. But the bishop asked all of us, the baptized, if we were ready to include this young man and all the elect in our prayer and affection. We shouted our promise: “We are!”

Click to download a FREE PDF: The History of the Scrutinies

This is a new day for our church. We are pregnant with new life. We are people of many colors, dresses, and languages. As we renew our own life-changing promises this Easter, let’s stand tall, proud of our differences, confident in our unity, awed by our God, and committed to the holy work of telling the world our story.

What happened at your election rite?

Share with us a memory from your Rite of Election. We’d love to hear it.

See also these related articles:

  1. The Rite of Election — a journey into the divine mystery
  2. Will your Rite of Election be a true decision point this year?
  3. 10 Ways to Involve Parishioners in the RCIA Process
  4. The tremendous and fascinating Rite of Election
  5. What are we doing at the Rite of Election?

Photo credit: Jen Vazquez Photography

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  1. In Baltimore there are three sites to choose from and we always chose the Cathedral celebration because Archbishop Lori does a wonderful of welcoming the Elect in his gentle, open manner. I like to think the Cathedral gets the biggest crowd and it impresses the Elect to see so many others on the journey they are undertaking to become Catholic. Most all walk into the sanctuary with a look of awe on their face, 1 To be called into the sanctuary itself, 2. The sheer number of people requires moving the altar from the worship space to accommodate everyone. When we processed on Monday evening the folks were still glowing and feeling so connected to the larger community. They are more excited than ever to move forward with initiation.

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