The first Sunday of Lent is one of those occasions that reminds me of the catholic (small “c”) nature of the Catholic (big “C”) Church. The Rite of Election is the beginning of the home stretch for people who are becoming Catholic: the Catechumens (individuals who will receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and first Eucharist at the Easter Vigil) and the Candidates (individuals baptized in another Christian faith who will join in Full Communion of the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist). As a sponsor for a candidate I participated in this ceremony today.
We began with the Rite of Sending, a simple ceremony during the Mass at the chapel that allowed the community to get to know the Catechumens and Candidates in a more intimate setting. Then we piled onto the Silver Line and rode to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross where we joined Catechumens, Candidates, sponsors, godparents, family and other well-wishers from all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston. Thousands of people filled the cathedral, which is quite a beautiful building with carved wooden buttresses and stained-glass windows. The Catechumens were called forward and presented before Cardinal Sean at which point they became the Elect (hence Rite of Election) and the Candidates followed for a similar celebration.
I tend to like ceremony and ritual, apparently more than your typical progressive Catholic. So I enjoyed the processions, the presentations, the intercessions, the contrast between Cardinal Sean’s basso profondo and cantor Phillis Baker’s ceiling-scraping soprano. The thing that got me most though is that this same ceremony occurred in each and every cathedral throughout the world. According to the cardinal there are about 3,000 total. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to be part of something that big.