||Bishop Robert C. Morlino receives candidate Kimberly Kazort during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. John the Baptist Church in Waunakee on March 13. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) For more Rite of Election pictures click here.
WAUNAKEE -- Bishop Robert C. Morlino has often likened being a member of the Catholic Church to being on a battleship headed towards heaven. Unlike a cruise ship, the journey will be rough and will get stuck on the rock of Calvary before it gets there — but it will get a better reception when it does arrive.
Like the crew on the battleship -- or the players on a team, as the bishop said at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion March 13 at St. John the Baptist Church in Waunakee -- it is important for Catholics to be unified in the fight.
Joining the team
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is an annual event traditionally held in the Diocese of Madison on the first Sunday of the Lenten season. It brings together the catechumens -- those who are as yet unbaptized -- and candidates -- those baptized Christian and now seeking the Sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist in the Catholic Church -- from parishes around the diocese. In ceremonies at their home parishes, they were sent forth to declare at the rite their intention of receiving the Sacraments of Initiation and full reception into the Church.
After the Liturgy of the Word, the catechumens are affirmed by their sponsors and the assembly, and are called forth to declare their intention to enter the Church, sign their name in the book of the elect, and be blessed by the bishop. The candidates then are affirmed by their sponsors and the assembly, and come forward to declare their intention and be blessed by the bishop.
These catechumens and candidates have been preparing throughout the year with the help of catechists and sponsors as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
This year brought forward 179 people from 50 parishes around the diocese who have been called to join the Catholic Church.
Being a part of the team, though, means more than simply showing up and playing the game, the bishop said. “We want to be one mind, one heart with the coach.”
The bishop was echoing Pope Benedict XVI who, during his Angelus address in Rome March 13, also spoke of this same need for unification in the fight against evil. On our Lenten journey of conversion, the pope said, we as Christians must make a commitment “to take Jesus’ side against sin and, as individuals and as a Church, to engage in spiritual battle against the spirit of evil.”
To take a stand against sin, though, we must recognize what sin is.
Becoming a part of the Catholic Church means learning a lot of “ground rules,” Bishop Morlino said. But among the very basic rules is one that was touched upon in the readings for March 13 — the story of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden and the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert.
“We must have a healthy sense of sin,” the bishop said. That is not to mean we must wallow in self-guilt, but rather that we must realize that one mortal sin of disobedience can lose salvation.
“One mortal sin does far more devastation than the evils of the earth,” he said. When there is death and destruction on earth, we can recover, rebuild, and move on, “but when eternity is lost, we can’t move on; there is nothing to move on to.”
In modern societies where people pretend God does not exist, the pope said, it is logical for them to think there is such a thing as sin or evil either. Just as there are only shadows when the sun or another light is shining, “so the eclipse of God necessarily leads to the eclipse of sin,” he said.
But in order to play on the Catholic Church team, the bishop said, continuing his analogy, “we must have a healthy sense of sin. When I go to Confession and see how easy it is to receive God’s mercy, that makes me grateful. That makes me a team player. Who could not feel a tremendous gratitude for that guy? Who would not take a bullet for that guy?”
We have to know the ground rules, the bishop said. “We have to know how deadly is the malice of sin and evil and how clever is the ancient serpent who is unfortunately alive and doing well in the world today.”
Being on board this battleship isn’t pleasant, the bishop said. “But what is pleasant is we have to enter the battle knowing that we are going to win.
“We are all winners in Jesus Christ -- that gives us endless hope and endless energy, but it doesn’t cancel out the battle,” he said. “As you become Catholic, never forget that with Christ all things are possible.”