A time of holy commitment for all

Ceremonies marking the celebration of the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion involving hundreds of people were held in four locations across South Carolina recently.

Bishop David B. Thompson presided over the celebrations at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, St. Peter Church in Columbia, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston and St. Michael Church in Garden City.

In his opening remarks at the cathedral event on Feb. 21, the Bishop welcomed the catechumens and candidates, godparents and sponsors, and all families and friends.

“From this day forward until Holy Saturday, you catechumens will be known as the elect, chosen by God, by his church, by the people of God to be graced with his sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, holy Eucharist,” Bishop Thompson said. “You candidates, from now until Holy Saturday you will be known as the recognized, you who have already been baptized; now you wish to be received into the Catholic Church as full members, to be confirmed in our Catholic faith, and to receive the body and blood of Christ, really and truly present in the Eucharist and under the appearances of bread and wine.”

He continued, “Catechumens and candidates: all of you long to receive our Lord in holy Communion, and today’s sacred rites announce to you and to all that the church welcomes you to do this within the Easter Vigil ceremonies next Holy Saturday, April 3.”

Bishop Thompson then congratulated and welcomed those gathered, saying, “What a way to march into the next millennium, with Jesus Christ in your hearts and at your side, as members of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit.”

The following is the Bishop’s homily given at the ceremony:

The homilist is invited to use:

1. The sacred texts, i.e., sacred Scripture of the liturgy;

2. The sacred liturgy, i.e., season (Lent), saint, feast (dedication of church);

3. The sacred event, i.e., anniversary, jubilee, Rite of Election and Recognition.

All three are most appropriate today, and I shall use the readings and this liturgy, and your ceremony here today to emphasize that what you are doing is important: It is very important, all important and important to all.

Very important

It is a dramatic step, a lifetime commitment, a decision and action you are taking which could well be painful, difficult, cause alienation. Because you are doing this, you should know what you are really getting into.

1. The church you are joining has a part: founded by Christ on the apostles and everlasting. It is at its millennium and will continue because of the promise and guarantee of Christ.

2. The church you are joining is marked, and all will know the Catholic Church by its marks:

A. One — established by the one God as the mystical Body of the Christ who is its head. United under one person, the vicar of Christ, the pope, who is its one authority. There is a line of unity: Christ — pope — bishops — priests — laity in one straight line. We are not congregationalists, with each parish or group doing its own thing. We are of the one faith, one baptism, under one authority, holding to the same truths.

B. Holy — Christ our founder is holy, as in his bishops, his saints, and so many of his millions of believers. Our church has values, some of which the world rejects, but yet admires.

C. Catholic — universal, throughout the world, all peoples, races, ethnic groups, ages. You’ll always feel home — the Catholic Church is everywhere.

D. Apostles — active, doing the works of religion, especially helping God’s needy.

3. The Church you are joining is imperfect, i.e., its members are not all saints. You don’t have to be a saint to be a member of the Catholic Church; you must enter and try to become a saint. If we had to be saints to be members of the Catholic Church, I would be the first one out of here. But we do have many, many holy people. Even Christ was tempted (today’s Gospel); so shall we.

All important

The all important thing for you to recognize at this time when you are making a leap of faith is that faith is a free gift from almighty God. We don’t earn faith; God gives it to us freely. And while we don’t earn faith, we can lose it. It is a virtue and must be cultivated, practiced, indulged; otherwise it can become weak and disappear. St. Paul to the Romans emphasizes how faith is a gift of God.

Then all who helped you to faith are important: sponsors, teachers, friends, those who gave you a good example, encouraged you, even asked you, “Would you like to be a Catholic?” Please consider asking that question of others. Then some occasion might have brought you to the faith — a death, a beautiful ceremony or experience. And, of course, all those involved in the RCIA program: directors of religious education, catechists, pastors, godparents, sponsors helped you.

Important to all

The whole church is affected by what you and all other catechumens and candidates throughout the world are doing today. You are giving the mystical Body of Christ a transfusion of grace by becoming members. Thank you! You honor us and we appreciate your gifts of faith, zeal, enthusiasm. You encourage us in our faith. Welcome!