Happy Daylight Saving Time, everyone!! I really like Daylight Saving Time, to the point that I'm thinking of declaring the day it starts a personal holiday. Having the extra daylight helps my mood; it also helps me get things done, since I figure that more light means I have more time. I really don't; in fact, to get here, we all had to lose an hour. But it still feels like I have more time. I especially needed more time today; I left my apartment at 10:30 am EDT -- rushing for the bus -- on Sundays, the bus on my route comes only one every half hour -- SO different from Boston, where I could catch either the "T" (train) or a bus, both of which arrived every 7 to 10 minutes! I didn't return until nearly 6 pm EDT. I still haven't washed either the breakfast or supper dishes, but at least I ate something for both breakfast & supper.
Today is the First Sunday of Lent. Among other things, that means that, for Catholics world-wide, it is the day of Election -- and this one has nothing to do with voting. On the First Sunday of Lent, adults who will be joining the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil by receiving the Sacraments of Initiation -- baptism, confirmation, and first Eucharist -- who, up to this point have been called catechumens, go with their sponsors and God-Parents to the cathedral of their diocese or archdiocese. NOTE: Those of you who are / were Catholic and / or who already know about the Rite of Election may want to skip the rest of this paragraph. There, they are welcomed by the bishop / archbishop. (For clarity's sake, from hereon, I'll just use the term archbishop, since that what Hartford has, as an archdiocese.) The catechumens answer questions put to them by the archbishop, as do their God-Parents and everyone in attendance, attesting to the readiness of the catechumens for the "Easter Sacraments." The archbishop then invites all of the catechumens forward, however, they are no longer catechumens; rather, they are the Elect, and they come forward to sign the Book of the Elect. After this, the candidates -- adults who have been baptized in another Christian tradition who are now joining the Catholic Church, and Catholics who have not been confirmed or received first Eucharist -- are recognized by the archbishop with a similar script, except they don't come forward to sign anything. They, too, are welcomed by the archbishop, as are their sponsors.
I spent part of my afternoon at the Rite of Election at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hartford; earlier in the day, I participated in what we call the Rite of Sending in our parish, since the idea is that the local parish "sends" our catechumen(s) and candidate(s) to the cathedral. Both times, I had a "speaking part" as the person who "presented" the catechumen and candidates, first to St. Patrick-St. Anthony's pastor and then to the archbishop.
Since I've been involved in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) programs in both Boston (at the Paulist Center Community) and here in Hartford, I've been to several Rites of Election, including at least two at which the now rather infamous Cardinal Bernard Law presided. A couple of things always strike me at these events, things that really do make me stop & reflect. First, each time I attend a Rite of Election, I am reminded how much of a truly universal church we are. At Catholic cathedrals all over the world, people were doing the exact same thing that we were doing today. The script may be different; the languages WILL be different. But I doubt that there was a Catholic cathedral anywhere that did not have a Rite of Election today.
That brings me to my second point, that, looking around St. Joseph's Cathedral, I was also reminded just how global, how international the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Hartford has become. Gathered today, we were African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Caribbean, Asian, African, Latin American and European. I could see it in the faces of the people gathered, hear it in their voices. After having been away from Hartford for over 35 years, except for short visits, I missed the processes that led to this change -- and I say change, because I am quite certain that the Archdiocese was not this diverse in 1973, the last year I lived in Hartford. In 1973, I recall the Greater Hartford Area having lots of Caucasians, lots of African-Americans, and a growing number of Puerto Ricans, most of whom were first- or second-generation immigrants. This past nearly year and a half, when I've gone to the Cathedral as I have on occasion, I've seen tremendous diversity in the worshipping community there. I recall one day -- it may have been Christmas Day of 2009 -- I saw several Hmong families there, identifiable because the women wore their Hmong dresses. Yes, the Greater Hartford Area and the Archdiocese of Hartford had changed a great deal in my 35+ years' absence.
My third thought isn't original, and I probably think it every year and have thought it every year since 2002, when the sexual abuse crisis hit the Boston Globe and then went national. That is that I am amazed, in awe, and truly humbled that, in spite of everything and especially in spite of the sexual abuse crisis, people still want to become Roman Catholic, still want to join this denomination, still feel drawn or called or summoned by G-D and Christ and the Spirit to become members of this particular church. And having been involved in the RCIA process over the course of the past 15 or so years, I know from a micro perspective just how wonderful the people who are coming into this church are. The ones I have known -- and they have ranged from physicians to classical musicians, from lawyers to financial planners, from social justice activists to stay-at-home-moms, from high tech developers to mystics (and probably some high tech mystics) -- have been / are among the most compassionate, intelligent, searching, ethical, and committed people I've known. Their faith continues to renew mine; after 35+ years, it's too easy to "skate," to take for granted, to pay only half-attention. Then, I encounter our Elect or one of our candidates, and I'm brought right back to the preciousness of this incredible gift called faith; to the joy of being in relation and in relationship with The Holy; to the wonder of feeling that The Holy One Who created me / us has Her / His Arms around me / us, loves me / us unconditionally, accepts me / us unconditionally, forgives me / us unconditionally, and never, never, never abandons me / us, even if at times I / We feel abandoned. Our Elect and Candidates have always renewed my faith, and never so much as now, THIS year, THIS Lent, with the death of my mother two months ago this date. This year, when there hasn't been a Mass at which I haven't cried since my mother died, when it's all too easy to feel abandoned, the Elect and Candidates in my parish have strengthened my faith by sharing their own as they grow and deepen their relationship with G-D, as they continue their journey with Christ, as they continue to be enlightened by the Spirit.
That doesn't mean that I won't fall back into feeling the abandonment that a mother's death marks for a daughter, especially since my father died in 1994. As a couple of people have noted, my sister & I are now orphans. It's a funny term to use for two adult women, one who just turned 58 (my sister) and the other who will become 61 in early April (me, obviously). But my sister and I are now alone in the world in a way we've never before experienced. To understand that better, I'll likely be doing quite a bit more writing about it.
Right now, though, I'll feel grateful to our Elect and Candidates and will let them know that at some point in the future. At this point in my night, I'll finish some house chores and get ready for bed. Blessings to all of you!