Called and chosen
Yesterday afternoon my fellow RCIA team members and I had the privilege of accompanying three catechumens from our parish to the Rite of Election at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. On the first Sunday of Lent, parishes from all over the archdiocese gather to present their catechumens — those who have asked to be baptized — to the Cardinal. Then the catechumens’ names are called, and they come forward with their sponsors/godparents to write their names in the Book of the Elect. It is a simple but very moving ceremony, and a major milestone in the RCIA process. (Next week we’ll be going back with the rest of our group — those already baptized — for the Rite of Continuing Conversion.)
I was nonplussed at first by the inclusion of Chinese, along with the usual English and Spanish, in the prayers and hymns at the ceremony, as well as the Cardinal’s focus on China in his homily. It wasn’t until I saw the enormous group of Chinese-American catechumens from Manhattan’s Transfiguration parish that I understood what a major presence they are in our diocese. There were, of course, many Hispanic Catholics in attendance, and I was also impressed by the many uniformed cadets from West Point. Just hearing the names of so many parishes, and seeing so many people filling the cathedral, was inspiring. I know it will increase my own joy when we celebrate Easter in my parish. And I ask you to please keep those preparing for baptism and reception into the Church in your prayers this Lent.
The New York Daily News reported on yesterday’s Rite, though their account of the Cardinal’s homily doesn’t quite express the point he wanted to make:
Egan, whose last major Mass at St. Pat’s will be Easter Sunday, didn’t use the homily to look back on his time in charge.
He spoke instead of his happiness at having a large number of Chinese-speaking New Yorkers at the rite of election.
During a visit to Communist China in the early 1970s, he and the priests in his travelgroup were invited to tea by young people who wanted to speak in secret about God, he recalled.
“What happened tonight must never be known,” the priests were warned afterward.
That last line is dramatic, but it unfortunately leaves the reader with the impression that Egan was heedlessly putting those young people in peril by telling the story! In fact, he explained that, after talking to the group about the Catholic faith, he and his companions wanted to send them literature to help them continue to study English. But they were warned not to — fear of the Communist government prevented them from being able to follow up at all. He went on to say how blessed he felt to be able to share the gospel openly with everyone who was gathered in the Cathedral.
Meanwhile, I continue to be fascinated and baffled by what can happen to stories when they are picked up and linked to by CathNewsUSA. Somehow, in collecting and posting the article from the Daily News site, CathNewsUSA added this lede: “Retiring New York archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan has hosted his last official event — a welcome for incoming Archbishop Timothy Dolan.” That’s totally inaccurate, of course, and the Daily News article says nothing of the kind (at least, it didn’t by the time I saw it this morning). What gives?
Finally, in other new-Catholics news — could Newt Gingrich be among those attending next weekend’s Rite of Continuing Conversion in his local cathedral? Matt Bai’s New York Times Magazine cover story from this weekend included this tidbit:
At a moment when the role of religious fundamentalism in the party is a central question for reformers, Gingrich, rather than making any kind of case for a new enlightenment, has in fact gone to great lengths to placate Christian conservatives. The family-values crowd has never completely embraced Newt, probably because he has been married three times, most recently to a former Hill staff member, Callista Bisek. In 2006, though, Gingrich wrote a book called “Rediscovering God in America” — part of a new canon of work he has done reaffirming the role of religion in public life. The following year, he went on radio with the evangelical minister James Dobson to apologize for having been unfaithful to his second wife. (A Baptist since graduate school, Gingrich said he will soon convert to Catholicism, his wife’s faith.)