A large congregation came to St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo on the first Sunday of Lent, March 10, as Bishop Richard J. Malone celebrated Mass for the Rite of Election for Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates. The Mass marks an important step in a candidate's journey into joining the Catholic faith.
"Today is all the Lord's work," Bishop Malone said in his homily. "You heard his voice, and with the support of the team in your parish, you've been able to walk this journey. You may have paused at certain points, but you kept going. That's the story of many of the great saints, the ones you see in the stained glass windows. Most of them didn't have a steady journey to the Lord, but (they) always heard the Lord's invitation to return."
Each candidate, or catechumens, came to the cathedral with their godparents, who sponsor them, to affirm their newfound faith in the Catholic Church, as they journey into entering fully into the life through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Once they respond to the bishop's call of candidates, the catechumen comes forward with their godparents to sign the Book of the Elect.
Bishop Malone noted the term of the "elect" during his homily, contextualizing the upcoming presidential election cycle that is already dominating the news to the catechumens sitting before him.
"You and I are here today and we're all about election," he said. "Those of you who have discerned the call to be baptized, or already baptized in an Christian community, are now completing that confirmation. No one is going to cast a ballot for you to be here today. God the Father has cast the ballot, and he has chosen you and every other Christian who is here today. You don't have to do anything but have an open heart and be willing to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit."
The next step for the elect is to be initiated into the Church officially during the Easter Vigil. Welcoming new members of the Catholic Church during Lent is part of the season's theme of renewal.
"We do chose the Lord, but only because He first chose us," the bishop said. "What a solemn, sacred (choice) it is to say, 'Yes Lord, I am ready to give myself into your embrace.' It is all about Jesus Christ, and he is the one to whom we have gathered for on this day."