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Father Muench Says...

Celebrating adults entering the Church

March 9, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

As a pastor, I was blessed to have baptized and accepted many adults as they asked to join the Catholic Church at Easter time. As you may remember, our program for those seeking to enter the Catholic Church as an adult is called the RCIA – the Rite for Christian Initiations of Adults. As we are now entering this Lenten Retreat, I would like to remind you of this very important parish program. This time of Lent will be the final step in the preparation for these adults who will be receiving baptism. They will be baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass that is celebrated the evening before Easter.

These adults preparing for baptism are identified as catechumens. They have been involved in a year-long program that helps them to make their decision about entering the Catholic Church. This has been a time of exploring the teaching of Jesus and of the Catholic Church in a systematic manner.

On the First Sunday of Lent, these Catechumens are invited to a ceremony called the Rite of Election. This rite is celebrated by the bishop at the Cathedral Church. These catechumens are initiated into the sacramental life of the Church. They are now designated as the elect.

During Lent on three of the Sundays, there are parish ceremonies called scrutinies. These are unique opportunities welcoming those who will be baptized to become a part of the Church and parish community.

The ceremony of baptism for these adults is truly a meaningful and powerful moment during the Easter Vigil Mass. The Easter Vigil begins with the blessing and lighting of the Paschal Candle, which is brought in procession into the darkened church. Each person in the church lights a candle from this new Paschal Candle, and a special hymn, the Exultet, is sung. Then seven Scripture readings are read, beginning with the creation story in the Book of Genesis. After the celebrant’s homily, the baptismal font and the baptismal water are blessed. This blessing includes the Litany of the Saints. The Paschal Candle is included as a symbol of the Lord’s Resurrection.

Then those to be baptized, their parents and godparents are asked to make the Church’s Baptismal Promises as they dedicate themselves to the Lord Jesus and their readiness to follow Jesus as his disciples. For those who are baptized as infants, these Baptismal Promises were spoken by their godparents. For these adults they are asked to speak for themselves.

Let me remind you of these Baptismal Promises. This may be a good moment, as we begin Lent, for you and me to renew our own baptism, a time for us during the time of Lent to renew our readiness to dedicate to the Lord ourselves. These promises are a series of questions that we are asked to answer, “I Do.” “Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?” “Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?” “Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin?” “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?” “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?” “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting?”

These Baptismal Promises give us the opportunity to turn to the Lord to again ready ourselves to promise to live well and to dedicate ourselves to be disciples to Our Savior. This is our readiness and our goal of this Lenten time.

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