As we continue our journey through Lent, there are some very special rites we celebrate for those seeking to enter the Church via our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). I am speaking of the “Scrutinies.” Often I get raised eyebrows when people hear the name of these rites. They sound quite dramatic, and we actually hope they are for those participating in them. But, they are not something to fear. It is my hope that they build up the hope and strengthen the faith of those experiencing the Scrutinies.
The actual rite comes from antiquity and is celebrated on the third, fourth, and fifth weekends of Lent. So, this week, the Scrutiny was held at the Saturday 5 PM Mass and will move to the Sunday 8 AM and 11 AM Mass respectively in the coming weeks. Originally, these rites were the ways the early Church assessed the readiness of those who desired to be baptized and, thus, become Christians. Over time, the rituals changed and eventually disappeared along with the whole process of the Catechumenate as it was once called. It was after the Second Vatican Council that the call was made to restore the RCIA and all of its rites and adapt it to modern times. In our case, we use a combined rite for the elect (those to be baptized) and candidates (those already baptized).
What does the rite consist of? It begins with bringing the elect and candidates with their sponsors before the community. Then there is an invitation to prayer and a period of silence. The Elect are asked to kneel and the Candidates are asked to bow their heads, both as a sign of inner repentance. What follows are intercessions for the elect and candidates. A prayer of Exorcism and laying on of hands or hands stretched over is made by the presider. The rite concludes with a dismissal so that they can leave and take part in a deeper reflection on the Word of God already proclaimed at Mass.
The purpose for the elect and candidates at each of the scrutinies is to 1. to uncover, 2. to heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful, and 3. to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. (cf. RCIA 141). In the big picture,, “the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ.” (ibid. 141).
So, I hope you will be able to witness and prayerfully support our elect and candidates in the Scrutinies. Personally, I find them to are very moving and powerful for all involved, including myself.
Fr. William Holtzinger