By Maria Covarrubias
Have you ever wondered how an unbaptized adult or child over seven years old becomes Catholic? How people from other faiths are received into full communion with the Catholic Church? Most of our parishes provide the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, commonly called RCIA. The RCIA process is open to unbaptized adults and children over seven years old as well as for baptized people from other denominations who wish to enter the Catholic Church. The RCIA process includes four stages as well as specific rituals that mark those stages within the Christian Initiation, in accord with the restoration of the integral catechumenate decreed by the Second Vatican Council.
The first stage, the pre-catechumenate, coincides with the first evangelization, in which the primary proclamation of the Gospel and the initial call to conversion takes place. The handing on of the Gospels accompanies the second stage called catechumenate, in which a more integral and systematic catechesis is presented to the catechumens (unbaptized) and candidates (baptized in other faiths who want to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church).
The third stage, Purification and Enlightenment, is characterized by the celebration of the Scrutinies, by more intense prayer, and by the study and conferral of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. This stage includes a more intense preparation for the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The fourth stage is the Mystagogy, or post-baptismal catechesis. This stage marks the time in which the neophyte or newly baptized experiences the sacraments and enters fully into the life of the community.
Each year, during Lent, the third stage, Purification and Enlightenment, takes place. This stage begins with the parish celebration of the Rite of Sending Catechumens for Election and Candidates for Recognition by the Bishop. In the Rite of Election, the catechumenates go before the Bishop to be presented and accepted to continue in the journey to Christian Initiation. Also, during this rite the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates who are preparing for Confirmation and/or Eucharist or Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church takes place.
This year, during the first weekend of Lent on March 7, 8 and 9, adult catechumenates and candidates and children catechumenates from all over the Diocese of San Bernardino attended the celebration of Rite of Election and of the Call to Continuing Conversion. Our Bishops heard the names of the catechumens called, received their enrollment by signing the books and declared them the elect. They also recognized the adult candidates celebrating the Call to Continuing Conversion.
The next step in this third stage of Purification and Enlightenment are the three Scrutinies. The Scrutinies are celebrated on the third, fourth and fifth Sunday of Lent at one of the Masses. The Scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance. They are celebrated to uncover and heal all that is weak, defective and sinful in the hearts of the elect, to bring out and strengthen all that is upright, strong and good. The following Gospels are used for each of the Scrutinies: 1. The Gospel reading about the Samaritan woman; 2. The Gospel reading about the Man born blind; 3. The Gospel reading about Lazarus. Finally, the last step of this stage of Purification and Enlightenment is the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.
Have you witnessed any of the scrutinies? Do you remember listening to any of these Gospel readings during Lent at Mass? Which one is your favorite and why?
Maria G. Covarrubias is the Director of the Office of Catechetical Ministry for the Diocese of San Bernardino.