For one candidate, his journey to the Catholic faith began with a conversation with a Buddhist monk. For a couple expecting their first child, it was the result of hours of conversation about what was missing in their lives and what they wanted to be able to give their child. I knew these two stories and I wondered at the amazing number of ways our Lord calls people to a deeper relationship with him and with the church as I watched Cardinal Wuerl greet more than 1,000 men, women and children who will enter our church at Easter.
A church of many faces
In five different languages the names of the elect were called and they started to move forward. One young boy’s sneakers lighted up as he climbed the steps into the sanctuary at the Basilica. Cardinal Wuerl bent down on one knee to greet him eye to eye! Young girls in flip-flops and tattooed young men followed. There were people dressed in the suits they wear as the walk the halls of Congress and people dressed to head to work at hospitals, restaurants and construction sites following the ceremony. There were whole families coming into the church and there were college students who have made the decision on their own. Some walked the length of the Shrine with the hand of their sponsors on their shoulders. Some had huge smiles and some looked a bit overwhelmed by the size of the sanctuary, the presence of the Cardinal and bishops and unsure of what would happen next. I couldn’t help but wonder at what exactly was the event or turning point in their lives that led them to this moment today.
An Evangelizing Church
Though the event or turning point is as unique as each individual, in chatting with the newest members of our church, what is repeated over and over is the importance of feeling welcomed and the witness and testimony of the Catholics they have met in their RCIA classes, at the parish and in their workplaces. In the Catholics they met, they encountered Christ!
Agents of the New Evangelization
I also wondered how many more people might we welcome if all of us were more faithful to our mission as evangelizers. As Cardinal Wuerl reminds us in his pastoral letter, Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision, all of us share in the mission of evangelization. “To be true disciples of the Lord, believers must bear witness to their faith, and ‘witnesses testify not only with words, but also with their lives.'” affirms Pope John Paul II. It is not too early to start thinking about who in your life you can invite to come to know Our Lord and whom we can welcome next year at the Rite of Election.
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