The annual service of the Rite of Election and Rite of Recognition and Call to Continuing Conversion (more familiarly known as the RCIA service) took place inSt.Andrew’s Cathedral on 26 February. With over 250 catechumens and candidates involved, together with their sponsors and families and friends, the cathedral was filled with people and warmly welcoming.
The St. Mungo Singers contributed to the welcoming atmosphere with a range of motets as the catechumens, candidates and sponsors were settled in their seats. Then the service began with the singing of the Introit for Lent “He will call to me”, as the Archbishop and clergy processed to the sanctuary.
After the Liturgy of the Word, Archbishop Conti welcomed everyone present to the service. Referring back to the Gospel which had just been read (Mark 7:31-37), he invited them to reflect on the word “Ephphatha, the Aramaic word used by Jesus as he opened the ears of the deaf man. That word is still used in the sacrament of Baptism at the anointing, for in Baptism the grace of God opens our ears to the Gospel – to receive it and to make it our own – and our lips to proclaim it.
Faith is the base and strength, said the Archbishop, which energises us to act. It finds its expression in the love of God and of neighbour. He pointed out to the catechumens and candidates that their presence in the Cathedral was itself an indication of their faith. He reminded them that this faith was a faith in a person, asSt. Johnsaid in the beautiful Prologue to his Gospel, in the Word made flesh, the same Word who is present sacramentally in theMass. Finally he invited all present to make their way joyfully together towards Easter.
The catechumens were now called forward by name and invited to sign their names in the Book of the Elect, a symbolic action which doubtless stays long in their memories. The candidates for full Communion with the Church were then called individually to take their place in the sanctuary. Each group was welcomed and commended to the prayers of those present.
The Intercessions for the Elect and Candidates followed, the solemnity of these underlined by the singing of the responses. The service closed with the singing of the Canticle of Ezekiel “Hear Me, my people” to the well-known tune of “Be Thou my Vision”. As the congregation made its way to the Eyre Hall to celebrate the occasion, the choir provided a musical accompaniment with the Isaac Watts motet “My Shepherd will Supply” based on Psalm 22.
On a sadder note, this was the last Archdiocesan service that Mgr. Peter Smith would be responsible for as Master of Ceremonies before he departs for New York and his new post at the UN. We wish him well!