SASKATOON — The diocesan Rite of Election was held Feb. 18 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, marking a new phase in the RCIA journey for those who will receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and eucharist during the upcoming Easter season.
In parishes across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon — from Fox Valley to Wynyard, from Unity to Cudworth — some 60 catechumens are journeying toward baptism.
Those catechumens in attendance during the diocesan celebration were presented to Bishop Mark Hagemoen, who welcomed and blessed them as part of this next step in the initiation process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and for children of catechetical age. Similar celebrations are held each year throughout the world on the first Sunday of Lent. Each catechumen’s name was enrolled in the Book of the Elect, along with the name of their sponsor, before Hagemoen carried the book through the church, displaying the names to the assembly.
A number of candidates — who are already baptized in another Christian tradition and are preparing to become full members of the Roman Catholic Church — were also welcomed and blessed by the bishop. Some 42 baptized candidates from across the diocese will be confirmed and receive the eucharist during the Easter season.
The days of Lent are described by the RCIA as a final period of “purification and enlightenment” for those who are soon to be baptized. This lenten journey is shared by the entire church, said Hagemoen.
“Not only is this powerful for you, but indeed, it is powerful for the whole church. As we watch and join you in your journey, we are renewed.”
Reflecting on the Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent, in which we hear about Jesus being driven into the wilderness, Hagemoen spoke of his experiences in the north, describing the journey of Lent as being “called into the great spiritual wilderness to allow God to touch and bless us.”
And just as Jesus went into the desert and confronted demons that tried to “distract him, tempt him, throw him off,” we too might encounter “wild beasts,” negative tendencies, temptations, and doubt, as we strive to answer the call to righteousness, Hagemoen said.
“God never abandons us,” he stressed. “We go through times of blessing, and we go through times of trial, yet God is with us.”
The mystery of Christian life can be seen in the life of Jesus, whom we are called to imitate in his “radical obedience and submission to God, so that we can always generously receive from the Lord, the giver of life, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who enlivens within us a great heart to live God’s call and to enter into the vocation he calls us to,” said Hagemoen.
“Baptism is the beginning of the time in which we put on Christ and we share in the life, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ.”
The lenten disciplines of prayer, almsgiving and fasting help us enter into the spiritual desert and deepen our awareness of, and dependence on, God, he added.
“Every day, share your heart with the Lord. There are so many ways to pray, but just do it,” he said, describing prayer as the lifeblood of our lives as people of Christ. Kneeling, the bishop added: “Prayer fundamentally is about getting down on your knees and saying to the Lord, ‘I need you, I love you absolutely, fill me with your love and grace, I need you and I call you into my life.’ ”
As for almsgiving, Hagemoen reflected on Pope Francis’ words about the kind of service that “takes us to places we would not normally go,” adding, “when we give our heart and service to another for the sake of Christ, we are filled with grace.”
Fasting is about more than giving up food, the bishop said. Rather, it is about creating space for the Lord to fill. “In that space, God takes us to places we might not normally go. We might be aware of people and circumstances that we can see for the first time. We may even become aware of the demons of fear, or of unhealthy anger, or desolation, because we allow the space in our hearts and lives to confront them. And the Lord is with us when we call upon him.”
Addressing the catechumens and candidates, the bishop concluded by saying that the journey to baptism, confirmation and eucharist is a journey toward one of the greatest adventures of life: “It is the call to the privilege of putting on Jesus Christ. Embrace the gifts that will come through the power of the Holy Spirit. Share those gifts for the sake of the life, mission and ministry of Jesus Christ in our time and place.”