In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, through which adult converts are prepared to receive their sacraments and thus enter the Church, the last stage before the reception of the sacraments is the Period of Enlightenment and Purification. It begins with the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of Lent, where the catechumen (person preparing to receive the sacraments) is chosen, or elected, by the bishop to receive the sacraments.
This process includes the scrutinies which take place on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. Here are Lourdes, we’ll celebrate the First Scrutiny at on March 23 at the 4 PM Mass, the Second Scrutiny on March 31 at the 11 AM Mass, and the Third Scrutiny on April 7 at the 9 AM Mass.
The scrutinies are a series of blessings over the elect which are meant to deepen and focus their preparation to enter the Church. They are also minor exorcisms, meant to deliver them from the power of Satan, strengthen them in Christ. (As opposed to a major exorcism, which is used when someone is being possessed.) The RCIA rite book describes them in this way:
“The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For 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, who is the way, the truth, and the life.”
Some people will tell you that Satan is just a myth and that hell isn’t real, but the Bible takes hell and Satan very seriously. In His first letter St. Peter writes, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pt 5:8). Satan means “the accuser,” and refers to the devil as the one who accuses us before God. In his jealousy, Satan wants to deny us what he gave up in his rebellion against God. In his hatred, he wants to have us join him in His misery. The devil knows us better than we know ourselves, and so is able to attack us at our weakest and most vulnerable points, but he can’t force anyone to sin; he can only tempt us. We need God’s help to resist.
As the scrutinies are celebrated this year, we should all learn from them to examine our lives for anything that is not of God, to ask God to deliver us from the power of Satan, and to be strengthened in Christ through receiving the Sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.