At a time when we are told that religion is passé and on the way out, it is always uplifting to attend the annual RCIA service and see the numbers of people who have made the choice to join the church. This year, there were more than 90 people of all ages presenting themselves either for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, or for entry into full communion with the Church. They were accompanied by their sponsors and members of their families and parish communities.
As the St. Mungo Singers sang music from the church’s rich treasury of liturgical resources – “Jesu, Rex Admirabilis” (Palestrina); “Lead Me, Lord” (Wesley); Handel’s Largo and Gibbons “Come, Holy Ghost” – the candidates entered the cathedral and took their places. The service itself began with the Introit for Lent “He will call to Me”. Archbishop Tartaglia greeted everyone present with joy before reading the opening prayer.
After the Liturgy of the Word, Archbishop Tartaglia began his homily with a repeat of his welcome to what he described as an emotive service, one which was for the candidates the beginning of the adventure of their lives. Addressing the catechumens first, he said that he was so pleased and thankful that they had resolved to receive Baptism. For those coming into full communion, it was a great joy to have these baptised brother and sisters reach a point in their spiritual journey where they feel their home is in the Catholic Church.
It was, he said, a wonderful day, but the deeper truth was that it was God who was choosing them, and for this there should be praise and thanksgiving. Each one had a story to tell which was unique and personal. If anyone doubted God’s calling, they should look at those present today for this service.He hoped that they would be ready to testify to God’s action if they were asked “Why are you doing this?”. The Church accepts God’s work in them with the greatest happiness. Now, during Lent, they would have a time of preparation and perhaps temptations not to go ahead but, the Archbishop urged them, “Be strong! The whole Church is praying for you.”
One by one, the catechumens came forward to sign their names in the Book of the Elect and take their place with their sponsors in the sanctuary, as the choir led the singing of the Canticle from Ephesians and Blessed John Newman’s “Lead Kindly Light”. Then those seeking full communion were called forward in turn, with their sponsors, to the sanctuary, to be recognised and welcomed.
The intercessions followed. As the congregation responded, the sponsors stood beside the newly Elect and the Candidates, with their right hands on their shoulders as a sing of their continuing care for them in this final stage of their journey towards Easter. The service finished with a prayer over the Elect and Candidates and the signing of the Canticles of Ezechiel “Hear Me, my People”.
Afterwards there was an opportunity to chat in the Eyre Hall over a cup of tea or coffee. The atmosphere was very definitely one of celebration for all involved.