A few things you probably didn’t know about the scrutinies

There is no explicit “scrutiny” in the scrutinies

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAIn the early church, the bishop would publicly inquire of the godparents if their elect had been living a Christian life. That doesn’t happen in the current rite. Instead, the elect are “scrutinized” by hearing the proclamation of God’s word.

There is an exorcism, but it’s not what most people think

In the gospels, we read stories of Jesus addressing demons and casting them out of possessed people. We have also read novels and seen movies in which the main character is an “exorcist” who confronts fantastical demons who possess the bodies of innocent people (usually young girls). None of this happens in the ritual scrutinies. The prayer of exorcism never mentions the word “exorcism.” It is not a prayer that is intended to cast out demons.

Instead of addressing demons, the presider addresses God. The exorcism prayers ask God to strengthen the elect and protect them from all temptation and deceit.

The presentations cannot be combined with the scrutinies

Adding the Presentation of the Creed or the Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer into or after the scrutiny rites detracts from the centrality of the exorcism and makes the liturgy seem cluttered.

Baptized people do not get scrutinized

The scrutinies are a preparation for initiation. Anyone who is already baptized and wants to pray for strengthening and protection from temptation would celebrate either the Eucharist or the Rite of Penance.

Free resource: The history of the Scrutinies

Only the bishop can dispense the requirement for celebrating all three scrutinies

“It pertains to the bishop for his own diocese to dispense, on the basis of some serious obstacle, from one scrutiny or, in extraordinary circumstances, even from two” (RCIA 34.3). If one of your elect has to be absent from the scrutiny on Sunday, you can celebrate it with him later in the week — either at weekday Mass or an evening Liturgy of the Word. If the latter, a deacon may preside.

Child catechumens are required to celebrate the scrutinies

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults offers the option of celebrating an adapted form of the scrutinies for children (see RCIA 291). However, these adaptations do not seem to be well done or consistent with the purpose of the scrutinies as described previously for adults. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults also suggests that guidelines given for adults (RCIA 141-146) may be followed with child catechumens (see RCIA 291). Most parishes find that including the children in the scrutinies with the adults is a powerful spiritual moment for both the child catechumens and their families.

If you have no elect in Years B and C, you may still proclaim the Year A readings

Because the gospels about the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus are of such major importance in regard to Christian initiation, they may also be read on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent in Year B and Year C, even if you do not have elect in your parish (see Lectionary for Mass, Introduction, 97).

Your Turn

What questions do you have about the scrutinies? Share them in the comments below.

Free resource: The history of the Scrutinies
See also these related articles:
  1. What the scrutinies do to the elect in the RCIA process
  2. Celebrating the RCIA scrutinies outside the usual times
  3. How to celebrate the Scrutinies and Presentations during coronavirus restrictions
  4. A few things you probably didn’t know about the scrutinies
  5. Q&A: If you don’t use Year A readings, can you omit the Scrutinies?

Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

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