For Forrest Horan, making it to the Rite of Election on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Sagrado Corazón Church, has been a 51-year journey in the making.
“I didn’t have an epiphany or anything,” said Horan, who will join the Church at the Easter Vigil through St. Patrick Church in McEwen. “It was just that long walk that I took to Jesus.”
Horan said he grew up around the Catholic Church having had a Catholic father, but it was a mixed religious household, so he never went through the sacraments. Then, at the age of 23, he entered the Army. Throughout that time, he got close with a fellow Ranger who was Catholic.
“We went and did everything together, and I would go to Mass with him,” Horan said. “That led me down the path.”
He would continue to go to Mass, and when he went to war in his 30s, Horan said he would go to Mass any chance that he could.
Fast forward a few years to 2020, he is now a retired lieutenant colonel, realizing something.
“It just struck me that when I returned from the Army, that not only did I have the time, but I also had the background and the understanding to know how important the spiritual life is and that many of the mistakes I made in life were made because I didn’t have that understanding of the Church, of the Gospels, and what a man should be,” Horan said. “I’m a cop now, and I thought a man should be an Army officer, a Ranger, a cop, those types of things, and those are all good things. But without the compassion of Christ in your heart, you can be a thug, you can be a brute. So that’s kind of what led me to it.”
Now, making it to the Rite of Election, he said, it feels great, and, once he’s confirmed and knows more about the Church, he said he looks forward to teaching his children, and his wife, who is Baptist.
“I’ll guide them, now that I know,” he said.
Horan is one of more than 180 catechumens across the Diocese of Nashville who will join the Church at the Easter Vigil. The Rite of Election, celebrated by Bishop J. Mark Spalding, is the next key step in the journey toward that moment.
“Catechumens, today is an important and solemn step that marks the beginning of your final period of preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation,” Dr. Brad Peper, director of the Office of Faith Formation, said at the beginning of the celebration. “Through your pledge of fidelity and the acceptance made by the Church, you will be admitted to and called ‘The Elect.’
“We feel blessed to share this day with you and look forward to the great joy that awaits you on Easter,” he said. “So let us prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the Rite of Election.”
The celebration began with the Liturgy of the Word, as catechumens, their godparents and families heard the readings for the First Sunday of Lent in English and Spanish.
Then, they heard from Bishop Spalding, who immediately instructed them to breathe in and breathe out.
“The reason I asked you to do that is this first point that is made in the Book of Genesis today for us. ‘The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground, and he blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being,’” the bishop reiterated.
“One of the great images that is in the Old Testament is this. Life is a gift of God. Each and every one of you is a gift of God and breath itself is that animating gift that God gives us,” Bishop Spalding said. “You breathe in air, you exhale, and we’re alive, and we can speak and act in the world.”
“Life is a precious gift,” and that is the lesson “our Church has been teaching you as you come into it in a full manner through baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist, and all the other sacraments,” he continued. “In each one of those celebrations of the sacraments, there is God, there is the gift of his son, Jesus Christ, there is the Holy Spirit and another way of translating that is the holy breath of God.
“It’s a wonderful thing to keep in mind this understanding of breath and how it’s a precious gift of God, and while we have this gift, we’re to use it to the best of our abilities because understand this: It’s just a moment to move from that first breath to the last and God will ask us, ‘What did you do with my gift?’”
As they enter the final days of their preparation, Bishop Spalding encouraged the catechumens to continue to learn as much as they can about the Church.
“God wants us to learn more and more what’s in His mind and especially what’s in His heart, and the best way we do that is to come closer evermore and every day of our lives to Jesus Christ,” Bishop Spalding said. “The core of what the Church is calling you to is to be at Mass week in and week out.
“If you’re coming into the Church, if you’re being baptized and brought into full communion in the Church, you have to nourish the faith that you have, and it’s nourished most profoundly by Word and the great Holy Sacrament of the sacrifice of the altar, and we need to receive that nourishment week in and week out or our faith will grow weak.”
Finally, Bishop Spalding encouraged all in attendance to remember the whole idea of God giving the breath of life, during the celebration of Holy Week, particularly as the passion reading is heard on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
“Listen carefully to the moment in which Jesus dies because in that moment, it says Jesus hands over his spirit, his breath,” Bishop Spalding said. “He first is handing over His Spirit and that Holy Spirit is being handed over to us even right here and right now. The spirit is coming down upon us so that we can say ‘yes’ to the ways of the Lord, and do his will in our life. When we do that, we go to heaven. It’s as simple as that.
“But the other thing about Jesus handing over his breath is he’s giving it back to God, the Father, and it’s a wonderful gift of oblation that He receives so lovingly and powerfully, and guess what, God wants to receive us in that very same manner,” he concluded. “Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. A breath. A gift. A gift from God.”
After the homily, Bishop Spalding led the celebration of election, which included the signing of the book of the elect for the different parishes, the affirmation by the godparents and assembly, the act of election, the intercession for the elect, and, finally, the prayer over the elect.
Along with the more than 180 catechumens, more than 300 individuals will also come into the Church at the Easter Vigil as candidates for full communion into the Church. A catechumen is an unbaptized person. A candidate is a person who was baptized in another Christian church.