By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Throughout the Diocese of Davenport, 237 men, women and children are taking a big step in their journey to join the Catholic Church. They are participating in the Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates.
Those participating in the ceremony are catechumens (who will be baptized, confirmed and receive the Eucharist during the Easter Vigil) or candidates (who will receive confirmation and the Eucharist at that time).
To accommodate them, two separate ceremonies were held March 1 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The third will take place Sunday, March 8, at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa.
Prior to this celebration, the rite of sending was to be celebrated in the parishes of each catechumen and candidate.
During the ceremonies at Sacred Heart, Bishop Martin Amos told the catechumens and candidates they have learned new words, such as Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), paschal mystery, reconciliation, catechumen and scrutinies. He reflected on the meaning of two words, “mystery,” and “election,” as they pertain to the Catholic Church.
Mystery in the liturgy is not something to be solved, he told those gathered. “Mystery is something previously not known that you know now: The mystery of the Holy Trinity. Before God revealed it to us, we didn’t know.”
The bishop also said that mystery is an invitation to enter into something heretofore unapproachable. “God invites us into the Holy Trinity, to be nourished by the body and blood of Christ. At Easter it all comes together.”
Referring to the word “election,” the bishop spoke of God and the church electing those who have chosen to come into the church.
“Catechumens have been studying, praying, experiencing God’s peace and finding a parish family. They are preparing to celebrate Easter. The catechumenate ends today. Today you are the elect.”
The season of Lent was originally for the elect, Bishop Amos said. It’s a time to do more interior reflection and preparation. “The teaching part goes in the background. It’s time to purify your mind and hearts.”
For the candidates, “today you declare your intent to complete your formation. You are continuing your conversion to ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.’”
Catechumens and their godparents were introduced by parish representatives and then met Bishop Amos. He signed the parish books declaring the catechumens to be the elect and initiated into the sacred mysteries at the Easter Vigil.
Afterward, the candidates were introduced and met the bishop. Intercessions were said on behalf of the newly elected candidates and the ceremony ended with the blessing and dismissal and the assembly singing “Church of God, Elect and Glorious.”
On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, the scrutinies will be celebrated, Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of liturgy for the Diocese of Davenport ,said.
Scrutinies are the catechumenal rituals that mark the final preparation of candidates to receive the sacraments of initiation. The scrutinies include a prayer to liberate those preparing for baptism from the power of evil.
The presentation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer take place during the third and fifth weeks of Lent, respectively.
A special penitential rite (similar to the scrutinies) may be celebrated on the second Sunday of Lent for the candidates.