Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
On the first Saturday of Lent, 4 March 2017, I will be presiding at the Rite of Election in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster. The Rite of Election represents an important moment in the life of the diocesan Church, for it is the occasion when those who are to be baptised or received into full communion with the Catholic Church at Easter are officially presented to me as the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese.
I find it both remarkable and humbling to see how God’s grace is actually at work in the lives of ordinary people from the different parts of the diocese as they journey and find their way into the family of God’s Church.
I encourage all our parish priests and their parishioners to support, by their presence, those individuals among them who are making what is a life-changing decision, either to receive baptism or enter into full Communion with the Church.
The Rite of Election, which has its roots in the liturgical practice and catechesis of the early Church, has been rediscovered in recent decades, as it were, and is now a standard feature in the cathedral of every diocese of the latin Church at the beginning of Lent. Those who through God’s grace finally arrive to be presented at the Rite of Election have often wonderful and edifying stories to tell of their spiritual journey.
Many will have come to the Catholic faith through the witness and example of others, be it husband or wife, or the influence of friends, even perhaps attending Mass for one reason or another. Others will speak of the opposition they would have encountered were they to contemplate this step towards Catholicism earlier in their lives, whereas now the time is right. Then, again, there are those who have long wrestled with personal doubts and misgivings about taking such a significant step. Each individual will have her or his own very particular story to tell.
The catechetical programme or period for assisting those wishing to become Catholics is called the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) and apart from gradually initiating converts into Catholicism, can serve the purpose of enriching the understanding and faith of those more established Catholics who are accompanying them. Few would disagree that as Catholics today we all need to grow in the knowledge of our faith and be able to explain and proclaim it to a world often anxious to hear the Word of God.
The season of Lent is a call to every member of the Church to reflect before God on the things that really matters in our lives, and on what belonging to Christ really means. However, while we endeavour to practice our faith every more devoutly, let us never forget above all to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of belonging to the Church.
Almighty God has been infinitely gracious to us for, as St. Peter expresses it, ‘He has called us out of darkness into his own wonderful light.’
Please pray for those from our own Diocese of Lancaster taking part in the Rite of Election in our cathedral this Lent, and in all cathedrals throughout the world, that they too may rejoice in the sublime and unmerited gift of God’s grace of belonging to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.
Let this celebration be an occasion of reflection and responsive action, too, for each and every ‘inactive’ Catholic to return home to the heart of the family of the Church where a wonderful welcome will be waiting for them.
Until next week,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster