360 prepare to enter church with Rite of Election

BOSTON -- About 360 catechumens from throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, joined by their godparents and catechists, participated in the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on Feb. 18.

The ceremony, presided by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, brings catechumens one step closer to receiving the sacraments of baptism, first Communion, and confirmation during the Easter Vigil.

"Here in this cathedral of Boston," Cardinal O'Malley told the assembly, "we rejoice that so many have heard the call to follow Christ as his disciples in the Catholic Church."

The 360 number marks an increase from the estimated 300 catechumens who participated in the Rite of Election in 2023. According to Cardinal O'Malley, over 100,000 catechumens gathered at 200 cathedrals across the U.S. for the Rite of Election on Feb. 18.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley welcomed the catechumens to "our Catholic family" and told them that they would not only become part of a community but be expected to participate actively in that community.

"The rite of election is a joyful celebration of God's blessing on the church," he said. "It's also a reminder to all of us to renew our own baptismal life of discipleship."

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley compared the Catholic Church to Noah's Ark, the subject of that day's reading. Like the ark, he explained, the church is "filled with all kinds of strange passengers."

"It's a motley crew," he said. "We are now over one billion Catholics in the world, and we come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, speaking every language imaginable. Despite all the challenges in the long history of the church, the church is Christ's plan for humanity's salvation."

He said that the catechumens "bring many spiritual gifts that enrich our community," and that many adult converts like them have become "great saints in our midst."

"You have brought new energy and passion into the mission of the church," he said. "We are all so grateful to those who have helped you on this path."

Cardinal O'Malley used his homily to give spiritual advice to the catechumens, particularly for Lent, which he jokingly described as his "favorite four-letter word." The cardinal described Lent as a period of healing from sin and strengthening of all that is good.

"Lent invites us to listen to Jesus's invitation, 'Repent and believe the good news,'" he said.

He said that Catholics must "be the good news" during Lent by performing the works of mercy and offering love, forgiveness, and acceptance to all people.

"Living our faith always means accepting the mission that Jesus has entrusted to us to make his kingdom more visible, more present," he said.

He recalled his experience as bishop of the U.S. Virgin Islands, when Hurricane Hugo wiped out the island's abundant plant life.

"The palm trees were just sticks," he remembered. "The coconuts were all over the ground. But after the hurricane, those trees and plants flourished, and grew more lush and green than ever."

He said that the same experience of renewal comes from baptism, which saves humanity the same way that God saved Noah from the flood. Lent, he said, is "a 40-day baptismal retreat."

Following the homily, the catechumens, their godparents, and the catechists came forward as the names of the catechumens from each parish were recited one by one. Each catechist carried a Book of the Elect, with their catechumens' names written in it.

Cardinal O'Malley asked the godparents if their catechumens had listened and responded to God's word, had begun "to walk in God's presence," and had joined in prayer with Catholics and asked the assembly if they were willing to support and pray for the catechumens. He then asked the catechumens if they wished to respond to Christ's call to them by fully entering the church.

The catechists held up their Books of the Elect, and Cardinal O'Malley declared the catechumens to be members of the elect, eligible to receive the sacraments at the Easter Triduum.

Cardinal O'Malley told the elect that it was both their duty and his to be faithful to the Gospel. He asked the godparents to place their hands on the catechumens' shoulders and "accept them now as chosen in the Lord." The elect, godparents, and catechists were then seated.

The Rite of Election ended with prayers for the catechumens and their families.