What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: March 1, 2007
I made an impromptu stopover at the Cathedral last Friday afternoon to retrieve the vestments that I would use for the Rites of Election that I celebrated over this first weekend of Lent. Those events always invigorate me and usually bring tears to my eyes as I look into the faces of those wonderful people who seek to join us around the Lord’s Table at Easter. Yet something equally wonderful happened to me as I exited the Cathedral rectory with vestments in hand. I was not wearing my collar, but one of our teenagers recognized me in my “plain wrapper attire!”
“Hey Archbishop!” The young man was quickly loosening the tie that remained the last vesture of his formal school day uniform. He had just completed an interview with Msgr. Kenny in preparation for his own confirmation, which will occur at the Cathedral in a couple of months. He is a student from Marist High School and a member of the Cathedral parish. Friday afternoon is a wonderful moment for our teenagers as they look into the face of sheer freedom with two days without classes—but usually chock-full of activities, sports, time with friends and, of course, family time.
He and I exchanged a few pleasantries, and then as he got into his car, I urged him, “Now don’t be too tough on your parents this weekend!” His response was classic—“not unless they misbehave, Archbishop!” Then that bright, expressive grin told me that this young man knew full well how fortunate he was to have great parents who had probably used that very same phrase in reference to him—maybe even earlier that afternoon!
This young man was a classic example of why the Church is in such good condition here in Atlanta. He felt close to his Church, close to his parents, and at that moment he even felt close to the Archbishop. Being a Catholic means being connected with Christ, with our loved ones, and with one another. No wonder that so many people look upon membership in the Church so optimistically.
That was the overwhelming emotion that I got this past weekend as I celebrated four Rites of Election for our Catechumens and Candidates who will be joining the Church at Easter this year. The Rite of Election is a celebration of connection—with God, with each other, and with those we might not even have known very well before. Being a member of the Church means being one with all those who struggle to believe, to love, to serve others and to hope as we do. The experience of being a Catholic implies that we are a part of a family that embraces all others with whom we share Faith, sacraments, and love for Christ Jesus.
The Rite of Election is the ritualization of the final stages of becoming a Catholic for literally hundreds of people throughout this local Church. It is also a moment when those of us who are Catholics, whether sponsors, godparents, catechists, Religious, cleric or lay people welcome our newest sisters and brothers into the companionship of the Church—a companionship that will be fulfilled at the Easter Vigil. It is a bond that is so noteworthy and life-giving that even a teenager senses that he belongs and that he is welcomed and loved and valued—as we all are in Christ.