What are the “Scrutinies”?

Dear Families,

What are the “Scrutinies”?

During the middle three weeks of Lent, some of our Masses will be different as people called “the elect” and “candidates” have been called forth to the altar.  As Easter approaches, we prepare to welcome these participants in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) through the Sacraments of Initiation.  RCIA is not only for those seeking full initiation into the Church, RCIA involves the whole Christian community.  RCIA is mainly for two groups of people: the unbaptized and baptized Christians seeking full communion with the Church.  For the unbaptized, RCIA prepares them to receive all three Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  Baptized Christians and Catholics will receive Confirmation and/or the Eucharist.

The Scrutinies are rites of conversion and repentance. These very special rites are celebrated on the middle three Sundays of Lent (third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent), at liturgies where the Elect are present.  The Elect are those in our midst who are preparing for Baptism.  Part of their journey to the font is that they have been received among us, the Rite of Acceptance, and they have been enrolled in the Book of the Elect in the Rite of Election.

Even if these rites are not celebrated at the liturgy we attend, it can be wonderful to reflect upon the journey these Elect are making during Lent, as an inspiration and source of renewal for us in our journey.  These are ancient rites and they may, at first, seem strange to us.  But they are profoundly rooted in our human experience.  We need to examine (scrutinize) how we are, the areas of our lives where we are tempted, or seriously sin - in what we do and what we fail to do.  We really need healing and the strength that can come from the support of our sisters and brothers.

What is the difference between a candidate and a catechumen? Good question! 

A candidate is someone who has been previously baptized in another Christian faith. At the Easter Vigil, candidates will not be baptized since Baptism marks us with an indelible character. In other words, we may be baptized only once. Instead, candidates make a profession of faith, are confirmed, and receive the Eucharist.

Catechumens are those individuals who have never been officially initiated into a church community prior to their entrance into the Catholic Church. At the Easter Vigil, catechumens celebrate all three Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Another way we state this is to say that catechumens are seeking full communion with the Church.

Please join me in praying for our candidates and their catechists.

God Bless You,

Fr. Valentine