Written by Michael Horsley, Senior, Electrical and Computer Engineering, RCIA Director
Now that the season of Lent has begun, I want to take some time to reflect on the significance of Lent in the Church, specifically how it pertains to those entering the Church who will receive the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter. These sacraments initiate catechumens and candidates into the mystery of salvation, the practice of faith, hope, and charity, and other virtues in a succession of liturgical rites. They are Baptism, first Holy Communion (Eucharist), and Confirmation.
As Deacon Frank Jasek so eloquently described this past Sunday in his homily, Lent is modeled after the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. The number 40 has significant meaning tied to preparation. The forty days Moses spent on Mount Siani, the forty days and nights God sent rain in the flood of Noah, and the forty years the Hebrews spent wandering the desert looking for the Promised Land, all these are times of preparation and penance. During Lent, the Church prepares for Easter by fasting, prayer and charity. Currently, the mandate is to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meat on Fridays. Earlier in the history of the Church, fasting occurred throughout Lent, but this was simplified to its current form. People are still encouraged to give something up as a Lenten sacrifice.
Just as the entire Church prepares for the Paschal Mystery at Easter during Lent, those entering the church prepare for their commitment to Christ. Catechumens (those entering the Church unbaptized) and Candidates (those entering the church from other Trinitarian traditions) must be examined by the bishop, priest, and community. Their journeys began with the precatechumenate, a period of inquiry and exploration of the beginnings of faith. When they have decided to take the first steps towards entering the Church, they are brought into the catechumenate at the Right of Acceptance celebrated on the Feast of Christ the King at the end of the Liturgical year before Advent. During the catechumenate, the catechumen explores deeper into the teachings of the faith and are taught the treasures, sacraments, of our Church. This period concludes with the Rite of Election, celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent.
This rite is celebrated by the bishop where he and the Church see those who wish to share our faith. The catechumens resolve to be initiated into the sacramental life of the Church, supported by their sponsors and catechists (teachers). They are now known as the Elect. Following this rite, the Elect enter the stage of Purification and Enlightenment during Lent as they prepare to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. The Scrutinies are celebrated on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent where the elect reflect on the full meaning of the step they are preparing to take. The entire parish community examines their own lives alongside the Elect and intercedes with God for them. The period of Purification and Enlightenment ends at the Easter Vigil mass where the Elect receive the Sacraments of Initiation and become full members of the Church.
I ask for your prayers for our catechumens, candidates, and those Catholics who are receiving Confirmation as they prepare to receive the Sacraments of Initiation this Easter. For those interested in becoming Catholic, or those who want to learn more about the teachings of the faith, I invite you to attend RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. We meet every Tuesday at 7pm in the Narthex of St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center.