When our RCIA Catechumens and Candidates returned from the Rite of Election at Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral, the Catechumens (those not yet baptized) are now the “Elect”. Both our parish and their godparents affirmed their commitment to join the Church and receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. This is the final period of their formation, the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. This period includes more intense spiritual preparation throughout Lent, and is intended to purify the mind and heart, deepen the knowledge of Christ and strengthen the relationship with Him.
During the last three Sundays in March, the Elect will participate in three different Scrutinies and Exorcisms. The Scrutinies do not interrogate or question the Elect in front of the assembly, rather, the purpose of each Scrutiny is “to help 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” (RCIA 141). The Elect are strengthened on the final leg of their journey toward initiation into the church with silent prayer, intercessions, exorcism, and the laying on of hands.
The Gospels for the Scrutinies feature the Samaritan woman at the well, the healing of the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus. Themes of sin, conversion, faith and ultimately healing pervade these readings. We are also called to reflect on our own sins and our need for God’s help to battle sin in our life along with the Elect.
The Scrutinies begin with a call to silent prayer in which the assembly prays that the Elect be given a spirit of repentance, a sense of sin, and the true freedom of the children of God. The Elect are then asked to bow their heads in silent prayer as a sign of their inner repentance. With the entire church in this sacred silence, the moment is powerful.
A Prayer of Exorcism is part of each Scrutiny. The celebrant is not driving out evil in the form of a Hollywood demon with a body levitating over the bed or a head spinning in circles. Rather, in these minor exorcisms we pray that they might be freed from the power of the devil and be protected on their journey. Finally, in silence, the priest lays his hands on the head of each of the Elect and calls down the Holy Spirit to be with them and protect them.
Please join the Elect at one of the 9:00am Masses on March 15, 22, and 29 and be a part of these ancient rites that serve not only to help the Elect but remind us of the power of Jesus Christ over evil and darkness.