Today is the first Sunday of Advent and so the first candle of the Advent wreath is lit in churches and homes throughout the world.
In the church in Dulce Nombre Padre German invited 101 year-old Nicolasa, the oldest parishioner in the town of Dulce Nombre, to light the candle. He mentioned that there is a 107 year old woman in one of the parish’s villages.
The lighting of the Advent wreath was only a small part of today’s two hour Mass.
The major event was the reception of
103 101 mostly young people
into the catechumenate.
Most of these young people have been preparing since August as part of the Christian Initiation of Adults. Never baptized as children, they themselves have decided to seek baptism. If they go through the process, they will be baptized and receive their first communion at the Easter Vigil next year and will be confirmed next September or October.
I have witnessed the rite of entry into the catechumenate several times in the US. This is only the second time we’ve celebrated it in the Dulce Nombre parish.
The rite begins at the church door where they are welcomed into the church.
They then proceed to the front of the church and are signed with the cross
on the forehead, the ears, the eyes, the mouth, the chest, the back, the hands, and the feet.
|signing of the eyes|
|signing of the mouth|
|signing of the hands|
The ritual I ran across in Spanish didn’t have the signing of the feet – but I added it, remembering what was done at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Padre German asked the sponsors to kneel before their godchildren and sign their feet in this way. He emphasized that this is a sign of our call to service – to kneel before others.
I was deeply moved – as were several sponsors who told me how much this meant to them and how it reminded them of the call to service.
After the homily, the sponsors were asked to give a bible to their godchildren.
Then Padre German invited the sponsors to present them with a cross.
After this, the new catechumens left to reflect together with several catechists and me.
What a sign of God’s presence!
In his homily Padre German reminded us of another sign of God’s work.
He asked the catechumens from La Torrera to stand. Eight of them stood up.
He explained how the village had never had a priest visit until this year. At times they would go to San Agustín, which is not close.
But parishioners from the six villages of that sector of the parish began to “mission” in La Torrera. They came, had a celebration of the Word, and did some religious education. As a result some infants have been baptized and now eight young people are journeying toward their baptism.
This is a marvelous sign of what the Church is – a mission to those at the margins, inviting them to share in the life that Christ offers through the Church, in the sacraments.
I look forward to the coming year – as these young people journey to the Easter Vigil and as many other find their role in the Church as disciples and missionaries of the God who became flesh in Jesus among the poor.