I had the honor a few weeks ago to attend the Rite of Election at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. I have been on the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton RCIA team for the past two years. Last year due to the weather, we did not attend this Rite, so this was my initial experience. My first thought was it was hard to find parking! So, I dropped off my carpool mates, found a place to park and walked in right before the procession with the Bishop. I found my group just in time and sat at the end of the pew.
The Rite itself was beautiful and since I was on the end, Patty Norris, our RCIA Director, asked me to take up the Book of the Elect with the Catechumens. I was not sure what was going to happen but luckily there were more that enough people to follow so I brought up the book. Once on the lower level of the sanctuary I stood while the Bishop asked questions of the Catechumens. When they left the sanctuary, the book bearers remained. We were asked to come up and stand by the altar. From that vantage point, I was able to take a long view of the people in the pews and it was truly awe an inspiring sight. Then the blessing of the Book of the Elect began. The incense from the thurible was pouring out and as the Bishop moved back and forth in front of the groups. I looked up and watched the incense curl and rise past the Books all the way to heaven. I now understood the meaning of incense to our faith. This last of word of Jesus on the cross took on new meaning to me as I watched our prayers rise to heaven.
Father, into you hands I commend my spirit. Lk. 23:46
These final words of Jesus in this simple and impactful prayer also billowed up from this earthly place and reached up to heaven. I had thought of it as an ending, a complete abandonment after everything possible had been given. But standing next to that altar of the Cathedral, as I watched the incense reach the heavens, it became apparent to me it was a prayer of new beginnings, not an ending. A starting point for us all and thousands of years after it was originally said it has the same impact on me today as it did with the centurion standing guard to the foot of the cross, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
My prayer for all who are part of RCIA this Easter Season is to take a step back to be inspired by what you are doing. Remember, it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s Grace to enter and do the rest.
Like the Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer teaches us, “…it helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.”