I recently participated in the Rite of Election, the liturgical rite by which the Church formally ratifies the catechumen’s readiness for the sacraments of initiation and the catechumens express their will to receive the sacraments. A catechumen is a person who is preparing for the sacraments of Baptism, Penance, and Eucharist. Of the many different kinds of liturgies at which I preside, I have a special fondness for this particular one which is normally celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent. I say this because as a “cradle Catholic” I never had the opportunity to experience the RCIA process and to see first hand the evolution of a Catholic in the making. Over the years as a bishop, I have seen the larger Catholic community pray for and support the catechumens and candidates for Eucharist and Confirmation during the liturgical year. At every Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, I have been privileged to receive into the Church the catechumens, other baptized non-Catholics into full communion with the Church, and to confer First Communion and Confirmation to many others.
The Lenten season is a time for ongoing conversion for not only the catechumens and candidates but also for the entire Catholic community so that we can live Jesus’ Resurrection in our lives. It is a period in which the priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists, sponsors, godparents, friends and neighbors should all participate in some or all of the “rites of passage”. Conversion, or a change of heart, is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, by the admission of faults to loved ones and friends, by fraternal correction, by improvement of one’s life, by a frequent examination of one’s conscience, spiritual direction and the acceptance of personal suffering to name a few.
In our North American culture and mentality, the above mentioned suggestions seem almost ridiculous, as if we are following the beat of a different drummer. You might say that we are. To take up one’s cross daily and to follow Jesus on the road to Calvary is the surest way to penance and spiritual growth. That is why the Church offers us this period of time to reflect on our past and mend our ways, or better still, to align our way to that of Christ.
May our Lenten journeys and our celebration of Jesus’ Rising from the death reflect a change of heart and a spiritual growth so that we can truly live the Easter Mysteries in our relationships with all our brothers and sisters.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Armando X. Ochoa, D.D.
Bishop, Diocese of Fresno