April 1, 2015
New Catholics Are an Easter Gift
As we enter the Sacred Triduum—Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter—I thank God for a special group of people: those who enter the Church at the Easter Vigil!
Welcome! Congratulations! The Church loves you and embraces you! We need you!
Up until Saturday night, we call either them catechumens—those who have not been baptized, and who will be “christened” at the vigil Mass, as well as be confirmed and receive their first holy communion—and they will become Christians and Catholics! Or we call them candidates, those who are already baptized Christians, and who will enter into full union with the Church through their profession of faith, sacrament of confirmation, and first holy Eucharist. (They would have also received the sacrament of penance.) For the last seven months or so, they have been part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in our parishes.
These new Catholics are an Easter gift of Jesus to His Church! I thank our risen Lord for them for a number of reasons.
For one, all we hear about these days are people leaving the Church! We all know folks, even within our own families, who tell us they are no longer serious about the Church. Some of them admit they’re just lethargic, and have drifted away; some tell us they’re angry at the Church; some inform us they disagree with the Church’s 2,000-year-old teachings; others announce they have found more attractive, interesting creeds.
And here we have the good news of thousands of adults in our archdiocese freely and exuberantly choosing to become Catholic! What a switch! How refreshing! Thanks for the boost! We thought everybody was bailing out!
Two, they find compelling what we lifelong Catholics have often dismissed! For instance, they want the sacrament of penance! They long for Sunday Mass and Holy Communion! They find the faith and morals of the Church compelling! They love our blessed Mother and the saints! They even like the idea of bishops, especially the bishop of Rome, the Pope! Once again, how reaffirming!
Three, they recognize that this conversion to the Catholic faith is precisely that: a change of life, at the core of the preaching of Jesus.
Our new Catholics realize that their inspired choice to accept the invitation of our Lord to embrace Him more fully in His Church has consequences: leaving sin behind, and a life now of grace and virtue. Each of our new members will confide in you how their conversion to the Church has hardly been only nominal; no! It is real! It means they have turned away from attitudes and actions at odds with what God has revealed in the Bible, in Jesus, in our properly formed consciences, and in the teaching of the Church. Sure, they know they may struggle and even fall, but they rejoice because they have the mercy of Jesus in the sacraments. What a radiant example they are!
Finally, our Easter gift of new members teaches us joy. They are so happy to be Catholics. Pope Francis is right: too many in the Church are sourpusses—his word, not mine! Not our new converts. They are beaming with jubilation as they enter the Church.
We sing “We need a little Christmas!” in moments of gloom.
Well, “we need a little Easter,” and the joy and hope of the resurrection of Jesus comes to us in the gift of our new members, home at last Holy Saturday evening!
Congratulations to you! Thanks to our RCIA directors and teams, our godparents and sponsors.
A blessed Easter, everybody.