Today we had our Rite of Sending. "What's that?!" you ask? The Rite of Sending, though typically for those who are unbaptized & known as catechumens, can also include the baptised, or candidates. It's the beginning of the end for us- the last leg of our journey through RCIA. We attended Mass as usual, only this time we entered in precession with the priest as we had for our rite of Acceptance/Welcome. Catechumens & candidates sat on opposite sides. After the homily, the catechumens were called to the front & faced the congregation. Their sponsors stood behind them & testified to the priest that the catechumens were indeed ready to continue on their journey toward confirmation. The candidates came up in like fashion & sponsors also testified in kind. The mass of catechumens, candidates & sponsors formed a dense horse shoe of humanity beneath the icon of a crucified Jesus. One woman sitting in the congregation commented later that it was as if Jesus had gathered us to Himself, arms outstretched on the cross to embrace us. My perspective was much different, staring out at a sea of faces. Its always kind of surreal being up front.
The catechumens were invited to go up to the altar- the very place where the bread & wine are consecrated- to sign the Book of the Elect. Its just a book with reproductions of old woodcuts & lines for people to sign their names... but our names will be read from that book when we are presented to the Archbishop in just four days... hence, "the Sending". The Catechumens signed one page & candidates, another. The sponsors stayed in place & their positions seemed to form a sort of haven for us to get up & sign behind... It's as if they were a wall, protecting us. Despite my nervousness, I felt no fear in signing. I couldn't believe I was doing it. When we had returned to our positions, the priest asked the congregation to pray & affirm us on our journey. They stretched out their hands & prayed. We were warmly welcomed back to our seats & the Mass continued as usual.
The St. Vincent De Paul Society threw a fantastic pancake breakfast afterward & I got to chat with the resident iconographer, as well as my sponsors & some other folks I knew at the table. It felt very communal. Random people congratulated me & were so excited for me... now its onto Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent & the Rite of Election at the cathedral on Thursday.