Each year in the Easter Season, new Catholics are welcomed into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).
This year, nearly 200 adults received the Sacraments of Initiation at parishes around the Diocese on the night of the Easter Vigil, which is the night before Easter.
Below is the letter Bishop Schlert wrote to them as they begin to discover the mystery of full and active participation in the life of the Church.
Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with much joy that I welcome you into the fullness of the Catholic Church, upon your reception of the Sacraments of Initiation, on the night of the Easter Vigil. In giving your assent to enter wholly into the Body of Christ, you have been invited to participate in the gift of Christ’s love made present through the Sacraments.
As you reflect on the occasion of your entrance into the faith, from the waters of Baptism, to the Anointing of the Holy Spirit, and your full, active, and conscious participation at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you now enter into a vital period in which you will seek to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ and your connection to the community of the faithful.
This fourth stage of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, called “mystagogy,” is a period in which new Catholics discover the mystery of full and active participation in the life of the Church. It is a period of prayer, learning, and practicing the faith in the context of the parish community and the universal Church.
The word “mystagogy” means “to lead through the mysteries,” and it is during this time that you are called to more fully discover and participate in the sacramental mysteries of the Catholic Church. This period incorporates new Catholics into the community of the faithful and calls for the participation not only of you, the neophyte, and the Pastor, but of the entire congregation. Through frequent reception of the Sacraments, deepened prayer life, and reflection on your experience of conversion, you, as the newly initiated are called to enrich your relationship with Jesus Christ and to share more fully in the community life of the Church, our Roman Catholic family of faith.
It is no coincidence that your time of initiation into the Church coincides with The Jubilee Year of The Real Presence in the Diocese of Allentown. The Holy Eucharist is the pinnacle of our Catholic faith, which serves as a source of grace and sustenance and unites us more fully with Christ. All of the other sacraments find their foundation in, and are oriented toward, the Holy Eucharist.
As Catholics, we believe in the Real Presence of Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. In the Holy Eucharist, you will find truly present the same Christ who has invited you to new life in Him. The Holy Eucharist is the source of grace for the Church and for the world, and that it is our greatest defense against the darkness of sin and evil. In the life of faith you will face many challenges, but keeping close to the Sacraments will bestow upon you the grace of the Holy Spirit, which will assist you in the face of temptation. Even Jesus Himself was tempted, but through our frequent and worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist He gives us the strength to overcome temptation in His Holy Name.
Your call to participate in the Sacraments as a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church is a call to virtue and discipleship. The life of virtue involves a habitual disposition toward all that is true, good, and beautiful. As Catholic disciples of Christ, we strive daily to cooperate with grace and to live in communion with Him in each moment. In every moment throughout His life, Jesus did what was pleasing to God the Father and lived in communion with Him. This is the life of discipleship. “The goal of the virtuous life is to become like God.” (CCC #1083)
As you enter into this period of mystagogy, I invite you to draw close to Jesus, the Master, who calls you, who invites you to visit Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and to abide with Him in Word and Sacrament (cf. Jn 15:5). Each time that you receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, I invite you to take a moment to pause and reflect on the mystery into which you have entered, the mystery of the Sacrifice at the Altar and the anticipation of Heavenly Glory. You have come to this point in your journey in Christ not by chance, but because this has been God’s plan for you from all eternity, and I take great joy in the new life you will bring to the Church.
Be assured of my prayers, as well as the prayers of the faithful in the Diocese of Allentown, as you move forward in your Catholic faith and grow in relationship with Christ.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert
Bishop of Allentown