Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lent: Catechumens, Candidates, and joy in the desert

Fast times a'comin'!

I love Lent. This God-given season does my soul good, as long as I let it.

There are so many blessings to enjoy in this season, but let me share one of my favorites: praying for — and with! — the catechumens and candidates as they come down the home stretch, so to speak, to the goal of complete Communion.

The trouble with being a "cradle-Catholic"...

...for me, anyway, has often been taking for granted the glories offered by the True Church. In my wacky mindset, Lent generally shook me up.

Lent was a "sad" time. Gee. No "Gloria." No "Alleluia" verses. And, depending on where my life was, at the time, "giving up" of things: candy, TV, trash novels, whatever.

One day I met a catechumen — and everything changed.

Lent became a time of joyful preparation!

And not just for my friends' baptism, or anticipating my Protestant friends' coming into full Communion with the Church. It became a time for my own renewal...a time to contemplate just what it means to be Baptized in Christ...to die with Christ in order to, please God, share in the glories of His Resurrection.

The Rite of Election...

...generally coinciding with the First Sunday of Lent, is an amazing celebration. In the presence, usually, of the bishop, those who will become Roman Catholics affirm their intention of joining the Church, inscribing their names in the "Book of the Elect" as a pledge of their fidelity. It's an almost overpowering ceremony and I never, if possible, miss it.

And so I ask you, as we enter into Lent...

...to enter into the desert with those who will, come Easter, become what God our Father wants all of His children to be: joyful brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, ready to follow Him wherever He leads us. To be reborn in Christ, filled with the grace to endure anything and everything the world throws at us, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

To you who are intensely preparing for full Communion:

Know that I'm cheering you on, praying as hard as I can, and am completely confident that you will make it to victory. How can you miss with Christ at your side?

And please accept my humble and loving gratitude...you are as needed as you are welcomed.