This weekend, the first in Lent, Cathedrals across England and Wales will have celebrated the Rite of Election. Now for those preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil the period of purification and enlightenment begins. For those seeking to be received into the Catholic Church at Easter they join with the whole Church on the Lenten Journey and the Call to continuing Conversion.
The RCIA Network collates the annual figures for the Rite of Election from dioceses – this gives us an annual snapshot. These figures are currently being collected and are due to be published on this blog next Monday 22 February.
For those preparing to write stories about this it may be helpful to offer some key definitions:
RCIA: The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – the liturgical text that provides the way that adults become members of the Catholic Church through participation in the liturgy, engagement in the life of the local church, understanding of Church teaching and works of witness and social action.
Rite of Election: the liturgical celebration on or near to the First Sunday of Lent at which the readiness of the Catechumens (and Candidates) is witnessed to and the Bishop declares them ready (the ‘election’) to celebrate the Sacraments at the next Easter Vigil. It is usually held in the diocesan cathedral.
Catechumens: Those who have not be previously baptised who seek to become Catholics through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.
Candidates: Those who have been previously baptised in another Christian denomination who seek to become Catholics through the Rite of Reception.
Children: Those who are of catechetical age (c. 7) can seek to become Catholics either with families or though their own desire.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment: The journey of faith followed in RCIA is marked by a series of periods and stages. The stages are liturgical celebrations which mark the threshold between one period and another – the Rite of Election is one such stage. It marks the passage from the Period of the Catechumenate to the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. This latter period coincides with the season of Lent and it the time of final preparation prior to the Easter Vigil when the Sacraments of Initiation will be celebrated. It is a time of spiritual reflection rather than catechesis.
Season of Lent: The six week period leading up to the celebration of the Easter Triduum (Maundy Thursday – Easter Sunday). The Church sees it as a time of preparation for baptism and penance,
Sacraments of Initiation: The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist which initiate a new member into the Church. For adults these are celebrated together at the Easter Vigil.