Bishop Robert C. Morlino shakes hands with a candidate and her sponsor at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, held February 17 at St. John the Baptist Church in Waunakee. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
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WAUNAKEE -- More than 125 catechumens and candidates were presented this year at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, held in the Diocese of Madison on February 17 at St. John the Baptist Church in Waunakee.
The annual event presents those who wish to publicly declare to the Church at large their intention to celebrate one or more of the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, the Eucharist, and Confirmation) at the Easter Vigil, March 30 this year. Each were accompanied by sponsors — Catholics ready to help them grow in their faith — and many of the priests and faithful of the diocese were present to witness these catechumens and candidates in this step on their journey.
The number of candidates and catechumens was lower this year than last by about 50, but their numbers and enthusiasm still demonstrate a Church renewing itself and growing through God’s gift of the faith and missionary spirit of its members.
Moralistic therapeutic deism
In his homily, Bishop Robert C. Morlino reminded the candidates and catechumens that boarding the Bark of Peter was not the equivalent of getting on a cruise ship, but rather onto a ship of war against evil.
“Dear catechumens and candidates, we cannot for a moment be naïve of what we’re getting into,” the bishop said. “We are not getting into the religion of our day. The religion of our day which has rightly been called moralistic therapeutic deism.”
This religion he described as the belief in a God distant enough to form into whatever the believer wishes him to be and who “doesn’t make any serious moral demand besides ‘be nice,’ ‘don’t hurt anybody,’” and that one of the main desires of those who practice the religion is that they always feel better and better about themselves.
“It’s like therapy,” he said. “It’s moralistic therapeutic deism. That’s the religion of our time.”
But unlike the believers in that religion, Catholics believe in the devil and his angels. As it showed in the Gospel reading of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, all the kingdoms of the world with their power and their glory have been handed over to me, says the devil.
“We have to be realistic as we prepare to enter the Church. This is a battleship against the devil and his angels, a battleship against the forces of evil in the world that are at the moment stronger rather than weaker,” the bishop said.
“Look at all the violence in the world. Look at all the hedonism. Look at all the selfishness. Look at all the complete ignorance of the natural law,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a Catholic who is pro-choice, or pro-gay-marriage, or pro-restriction-of-religious-freedom. Let’s be clear and honest about the Church into which we enter, clear and honest about the Truth of Christ.”
Living a holy life with God’s grace
The other point in the Gospel that could be missed is that the devil only gave up “for a time.”
“The more you are chasing after holiness, the better you will get the devil’s attention and the harder he will work to destroy you by deceiving you,” the bishop said. “Remember: he’s a liar and the father of lies.
“So chase after holiness as new Catholics, by all means, but don’t forget for a minute that your adversary the devil is roaming about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” he said. “And the holier you are, the more he wants to devour you. He’s armed with a superhuman intelligence and will to wage war against Jesus Christ by waging war against his grace, alive in you.”
Joining the family of light in Christ
The catechumens and candidates at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, the bishop said, are proclaiming publicly that they want to be part of the family of light in Christ, not the family of darkness.
“Look forward to your candle at the great Easter Vigil in all your parishes,” he said. Just as it says of the Easter candle in the hymn, “you will be transformed by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, into ‘a pillar of fire for the honor and glory of God,’ all aglow for the honor and glory of God. Yes, you — really you.
“That’s a lot to look forward to, and there’s every reason to be fervent in prayer and in love for one another as you continue in prayer to be enlightened in Baptism or Confirmation, or both,” he said.