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The Rite of Election – and Journeying with our Elect to the Waters of Baptism

by Anne Koester


I sit in awe every year at the archdiocesan Rite of Election, which brings together catechumens (those preparing for Christian initiation) from parishes across the Archdiocese of Washington. The purpose of this gathering on the First Sunday of Lent is for the parishes to present the catechumens to Cardinal Wilton Gregory whose responsibility it is to admit the catechumens to the Easter sacraments (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist). This year, Holy Trinity will send nine adults to the Rite of Election on February 26th – Angela, Justin, Emirza, Chris, Daniel, Nathan, Roland, Dihan, Mia and Nathan. This “sending” will occur at the 11:30 Mass, when these catechumens will sign the Book of the Elect. By signing this book, they will express their intention to be initiated into the Church, the Body of Christ, at the Easter Vigil (April 8th). Later that afternoon when we travel across town to the Basilica on the campus of Catholic University, their names will be read from this book, as will the names of the other catechumens in the Archdiocese be read from their parish’s Book of the Elect. Cardinal Gregory, as archbishop of head of the local Church, will “elect” them, deem them ready for the Easter sacraments based on the testimony of the catechumens’ sponsors. From that moment until their baptism at the Easter Vigil, our catechumens will be called the “Elect.”


The Rite of Election also marks the beginning of the third period of the process leading to Christian initiation. This third period – the Period of Purification and Enlightenment – coincides with the Season of Lent. The Elect’s preparation for the sacraments of Christian initiation intensifies during this time. This will be visible to the assembly during the Sundays of Lent, when we will present the Elect with the Creed (on the Second Sunday of Lent) and celebrate Scrutiny Rites on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. As the baptized assembly, we are called to “give the elect the example of [our] own renewal in the spirit of penance, faith, and charity” (RCIA 9(4)). The elect look to us to give authentic witness to living these spiritual disciplines – and not only during Lent. We are Lenten people who are present for the scrutiny rites celebrated with the elect, those rituals of self-searching and repentance. We pray with the elect that all that is “weak, defective, or sinful” in their hearts be healed and all that is “upright, strong, and good” within them be strengthened (RCIA 141). This is our responsibility – as the baptized, as people who also know, at times, weakness and sinfulness, and the need to be strengthened.


At the Easter Vigil, our Elect will be plunged into the waters of baptism, incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church. We are to welcome the neophytes (the newly baptized) with open arms and help them to feel at home in the community (RCIA 5). The neophytes are to “experience a full and joyful welcome,” which, in turn, should bring us a “renewal of inspiration and of outlook” (RCIA 246). We walk with our neophytes throughout the Easter season – and beyond – when we are called to grow together in deepening our understanding of the paschal mystery, making it part of our lives through reflection on the Gospel, sharing the eucharist, and doing the works of charity (RCIA 244).


Anne Koester is the Coordinator of Christian Initiation of Adults at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. If you or someone you know is interested in exploring the possibility of becoming Catholic, whether they are baptized or seeking baptism, please contact Anne at akoester@trinity.org for more information.


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