As we, the Church, journey together through the liturgical year we find ourselves in many liminal moments. Very soon we will start together on our Lenten journey towards our celebration of the Paschal Mystery at Easter. Interwoven in this Lenten journey is a liminal moment of great importance in the faith and life of the church. That is the Rite of Election of our Catechumens.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a journey begun by those seeking faith who come to the Catholic community to get to know Jesus and experience the Catholic way of life. The introductory phase is known as the Precatechumenate. When ready, those who wish to continue the journey take the first formal step, celebrated in the Rite of Acceptance, where they are ‘accepted’ into the Order of Catechumens. This marks the beginning of the second period of initiation where the Catechumens undergo a process of prayer and learning about the Catholic way of life which is driven by the liturgical year. Typically, the Catechumenate takes twelve months but may be longer according to the needs of the individual.
The Rite of Election closes the Period of the Catechumenate. This rite normally coincides with the first Sunday of Lent. At this time the Catechumens declare their desire for baptism supported by their godparents, sponsors, priests and, indeed, the whole church community. In the presence of the bishop (or delegate) in the cathedral, they sign their name in the Book of the Elect. They are then known as “the elect”.
The Rite of Election is normally celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent. This marks the beginning of the third stage of the Initiation journey, aptly named the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. This can be a very intense time for The Elect when, accompanied by the community, they deepen their reflection of the Paschal Mystery. This preparation ensures that The Elect are ready to receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil. Once baptised they are known as Neophytes.
It is a surprise to some communities to know that this is not the end of the initiation journey. The Neophytes, still accompanied by the parish community, enter the Period of Post Baptismal Mystagogy for the duration of the Easter Season. This time is focused firstly on the readings of the Sundays of Easter and preaching that breaks open their meaning for discipleship now and secondly on reflection on the experience of Initiation. The Neophytes continue to hold an important place in the community for the first twelve months of their life as baptised members of the faithful.
This year we encourage our Church community to come together at 2.30 pm on Sunday 6 March 2022 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral to support and pray for our Catechumens as they become The Elect. For all details click here.
Photo: © 2021 Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. All rights reserved.
Author: Fiona Duque
Diocesan Christian Initiation Forum
Leader of Learning Religion
St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm