By Cass Hooker, Director of Evangelization
In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) there are three important times of prayer for our Elect who will be Baptized at the Easter Vigil. These rites of our Church are called “Scrutinies” and are celebrated at weekend liturgies on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent. This coincides with the time after our catechumen have been elected by the Church for the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Here at Immaculate Conception, each of our weekend Liturgies will have one of the Scrutinies celebrated.
During the Scrutinies, there are also prayers of Exorcism. Now, in our culture when we hear of being scrutinized and exorcised we may wonder what this means or even turn from it and make haste in another direction. There may be negative connotations around these two words. We may be asking questions like: Who is being scrutinized? Why are our Elect being scrutinized? What does this have to do with me, as I am already Catholic? And regarding Exorcism, Hollywood may give us a distorted picture which evokes discomfort and even fear.
But now here is what the Church tells us of these two prayers of scrutiny and exorcism. These prayers hope to assist and inspire a desire for purification and redemption by Christ. The progression of these times of reflection and prayer enhance this desire for salvation through the Catholic Church. The prayers of exorcism frees the Elect from the effects of sin and from the influence of evil. The grace of new strength is given in this time of their spiritual Journey.
For us who are already Catholic, how can we enter more fully into these rites? As in all Liturgies that celebrate special prayers, perhaps even Sacraments that we are “observers”, we are called and invited to enter fully into this action and prayer of our Church. So these prayers of Scrutiny and Exorcism are times for us, as well, to allow God to uncover our weakness and sin so that these may be healed and we might be strengthened. This time of prayer is not about sinfulness but about the overwhelming grace of God. These Scrutinies with accompanying Exorcisms are indeed focused on our Elect as they prepare to enter the Catholic Church. However, let us remember that we too journey toward Easter with our eyes fixed on revealing how we grow each day in grace and hope. These special prayers are meant also for us.
They (we) open their (our) hearts to you in faith, they(we) confess their (our) faults
And lay bare their (our) hidden wounds. In your love free them (us) from their (our)
Infirmities, heal their (our) sickness, quench their (our) thirst, and give them (us) peace.
In the power of your name, which we call upon in faith, stand by them (us)
Now and heal them (us).
-Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Prayer of Exorcism [adapted]