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Bishop Felton celebrates Rite of Election

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

On Feb. 27, the first Sunday of Lent, Bishop Daniel Felton celebrated a liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary welcoming those seeking the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. 

Called the Rite of Election of Catechumens and the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates, it begins the final preparation for those going through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Those include catechumens, who are adults seeking baptism in the Catholic faith, and candidates, adults who have already been baptized, often in another Christian tradition, who are seeking, along with the catechumens, the sacraments of confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. 

Nearly 70 catechumens and candidates from 16 parishes across the diocese plus the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth participated in the liturgy, 15 of whom were catechumens. They were joined by godparents, sponsors, and clergy.

Catechumens and their godparents sign the Book of the Elect during the Rite of Election Feb. 27 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Bishop Felton used a song from his childhood — beginning “if the devil doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack” — to frame his homily on the Sunday readings, as well as the Lenten season and the day’s ritual, noting that the pattern of temptation the devil uses remains the same, from the temptation of Adam and Eve in the first reading to Jesus in the desert in the Gospel reading to the present day. 

Drawing from his own experience, he said he never goes to McDonald’s, but the devil uses it to work on him in Lent. 

“That’s why I’m always amazed that on Ash Wednesday, from the time that I get up in the morning until the time I go to bed at night, I can’t think of anything but having a Big Mac with fries,” he said. “A Big Mac with fries! I mean, I never even go through the drive-through, much less into McDonald’s. And so I find myself saying, ‘Why is that? Why is it on Ash Wednesday, all I can think about is a Big Mac with the best fries in the world?’” 

He listed the various temptations, that he hasn’t had one in a long time, that he’s hungry, “what’s the big deal?” and so on. 

He noted the similarities with how the devil, in the form of a serpent, tempted Adam and Eve and how he tempted Jesus during his 40 day fast in the desert. 

“Jesus came into this world, and he did not sin,” the bishop said. “But he did not come into this world and not be tempted. He was tempted in a very real kind of way, just like you and me. And not only is he Son of God, he’s Son of Man, and so he knows what it’s like in a very human [way] to be tempted.” 

The bishop said that the devil would also tempt the catechumens and candidates entering their “final period of preparation” to receive the sacraments at Easter. 

“As we go into this final moment in time, the devil is going to use the strategy that the devil knows best,” he said. He noted that one option would be to spend that time focusing on the devil and resisting the temptation, but he said there is another way. 

“… [D]uring this last period of preparation and purification and conversion, we can put all of our time growing closer to Jesus Christ, keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ, embracing him more deeply, embodying him more fully, to stand as close as we can to Jesus Christ in this final time of preparation before we are baptized and received into the church,” he said. “The choice is ours. Either we can spend our time with the devil or we can spend our time with Jesus.” 

Urging those gathered to continue their path of conversion over the remaining days of preparation, he said soon they would all stand together in communion. 

“You know, the day is coming — how exciting is this? — that we will stand with one another, in this church or in a church, before the altar, and all of us are going to receive Communion together,” he said. “And when you and I receive Communion together, Jesus Christ and his power to overcome Satan, Jesus Christ and his power over Satan, will no longer be out there somewhere where I’ve got to find it. … It’s going to be right here within you and within me.” 

As part of the liturgy, each candidate and catechumen attending was presented to the bishop by name and affirmed by godparents and sponsors. The catechumens formally requested “to enter fully into the life of the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist” and signed their names in the Book of the Elect.