The Scrutinies

By Lou Allocco

During the journey of the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults (OCIA), the Elect, those who have not been baptized, enter the final phase of preparation for entry into the Catholic faith during the stage of Purification and Enlightenment, which occurs during Lent.

On the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent, the Elect participate in special prayers at a designated Mass which are called Scrutinies. These Scrutinies are prayers for strength for the Elect as they get closer to the Easter Sacraments. The Church knows that as we choose to get closer to Christ, Satan works very hard to discourage us from continuing. This is the Church’s way of being a conduit of grace and strength to help the Elect persevere as they prepare for the three sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.

Following the homily, the Celebrant invites the Elect to come forward along with their sponsors. This is followed by a brief period of silent prayer, with the parish members praying for the Elect. Then intercessions are prayed for the Elect. Next, the priest prays a special prayer of exorcism that they may be freed from the power of the Evil One and protected on their journey, giving them new strength for their spiritual journey. Following this, the priest or deacon silently lays hands briefly on the head of each of the Elect, calling down the Spirit of Jesus to be with them and protect them.

The purpose of the Scrutinies is the healing of what is weak or sinful in the hearts of the Elect, and the strengthening all that is good and holy in them. The Scrutinies recognize the honest struggles of the Elect in their responses to God’s call. During the Scrutinies, the community prays for the Elects’ continuing healing and strength.

The Scrutinies are so important that the scripture readings from Year A are always used for the Mass at which the Scrutinies are celebrated, instead of the normally scheduled readings for the year. This is because the Gospel readings for each of these three Sundays correspond to a special encounter with Christ which the Elect, as well as the rest of us, should reflect upon.

The first Scrutiny, which takes place on the Third Sunday of Lent, is associated with Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, where He gives Himself as the Living Water. Through this woman, others in her town come to know Jesus as the Messiah.

The Gospel reading for the second Scrutiny is about Jesus healing the man born blind; He gives Himself as the Light of the World. At the end of this Gospel passage, to the man born blind the One Who healed him was no longer to him just a prophet: He was the Lord in Whom he believed.

The Mass of the third Scrutiny has the Gospel reading about Jesus raising Lazurus from the dead, in which Jesus reveals Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Even though the miracle happens at the end of this story, Martha’s faith is already expressed long before the miracle takes place; she professes her faith in Jesus the Messiah even as her brother is lying dead in the tomb. The Elect are being prepared to understand, as Martha and Mary did, the paschal mystery witnessed in the Resurrection: that out of death comes new life in Christ.

The initiation of new members into our faith is not just the concern or responsibility of the OCIA team; it also involves the whole Catholic community here. This is why it’s so important for those present at the Masses at which the Scrutinies are held to pray for the Elect. The Catholic faith community needs to see them as they journey into our faith. And this can help deepen our own appreciation and understanding of our faith. As we celebrate the Scrutinies, we also scrutinize ourselves, seeking to see sin for what it really is, and to understand our own personal weaknesses. Once we have done this, we can begin to exercise the freedom and liberation we have received through Jesus because we believe in His redemptive sacrifice and we entrust ourselves to Him.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *