Lent is truly a remarkable time for those preparing for Baptism or to be received into the Church. Every week, from the first weekend when, in the Rite of Election, they experience the call of being “chosen” by God, there are new graces heaped upon them. Last Sunday, after our celebration of the First Scrutiny and the Presentation of the Creed, one catechumen said to me, “I keep thinking it can’t get any better! How can it get any better than this?!” She was overwhelmed by an enormous experience of God’s love, through the liturgy and the community. From the deacon’s chanting of the intercessions for the catechumens as they knelt on the sanctuary step, to all the promises of prayers they received from parishioners after the Mass, she is already feeling embraced in God’s love.
Each week, we pore over the words of the Rite for the following Sunday, examining their theological and spiritual meaning for the lives of the elect. We encourage them to pray with the words of the Rite at home to savour its full meaning for their spiritual life. A priest gives them a Meditation on the Year A Sunday Gospel each week, which they also pray with during the week. The themes of darkness and light, blindness and sight, the awakening of spiritual senses, repentance from sin, run powerfully both through these Gospels and the Rites of each Lenten Sunday. The laying on of hands in the exorcism, the handing over of the Creed and later, the Our Father, all speak powerfully of the Church’s scrupulous care and love of her elect.
Of course, Lent can be a trialling, even gruelling, time for us in the thick of spiritual battle, and particularly, perhaps for catechumens. Some may experience dryness in prayer, more difficulties than usual at home or at work, and even an absence of God’s presence where they felt it closely before. This can be a bewildering experience for those new in the Faith, and it reminds us of the need to be vigilant in our pastoral care and prayer for them.
What we can be sure of, though – and let’s transmit this assurance to the catechumens – even if you’re experiencing Lent joyfully: yes, it does get better than this – much, much better! Because there is nothing like being a son or daughter of God the Father, entirely redeemed from sin, set apart to spend eternity with Him. We know that Easter will come, and we know that we will overflow with new joy!