Non Solum: Scrutinies in Scattered Parishes

A Pray Tell reader in Central America writes:

We have an interesting situation here for the catechumenate. We have about 91 candidates for Baptism at the Vigil (14 years and older). They live in about 15 different villages. What do we do for the scrutinies? What I am suggesting to our pastor is that they use the prayers over the candidates (like prayers of the faithful – called suplicas here) but not the  exorcism prayer.

It would not be feasible for the elect to come to the parish church on those three Sundays – transportation is difficult and the costs are prohibitive. We do have them come in for the rite of entry into the catechumenate and the rite of election as well as the Easter Vigil.

What do you think? How can the intent and purpose of the scrutinies be fulfilled without resident clergy?


  1. With the caveat that I have no training or experience in RCIA or pastoral care in such a setting, let me offer one perspective:

    Why not take an Appreciative Inquiry approach to the situation?

    Appreciative Inquiry, as the name indicates, is about asking questions that focus on positive aspects of an individual, group, or situation – what can be appreciated. Applying this to the scrutinies might mean asking candidates to:
    – identify talents or gifts they believe God has entrusted to them ,
    – describe how others in the community have been models and encouragers for them, especially in times of weakness or difficulty, and
    – express what they hear in Jesus’ calling them to discipleship and how they hope to serve the community.

    A personal witness such as this would strengthen both the individual and the community, and highlights (a phrase or two) from each person’s statements could be repeated at the Easter Vigil.

  2. According to the provisions of the ritual text, a bishop may dispense from one or even two Scrutinies. I think this suggests that at least one Scrutiny must be celebrated. On the other hand, delegation may be given to celebrate the Rite of Election, so I would say if the transportation issues make even one extra trip to the parish impossible, depute catechists to hold election in the villages, but come to the parish for one Scrutiny at least.

    For the other two Scrutiny Sundays of Lent, using the intercessions is a good idea. A lay catechist can (if approved by the bishop) celebrate a minor exorcism. This involves kneeling, and may be followed by a blessing with the laying on of hands. Although the Scrutiny prayers are incomparable, and it would be a loss of the heart of the Scrutiny, celebrating a minor exorcism could be a compromise which at least carries forward the idea of Penitence and deliverance on those two Sundays when they can’t come to the parish.

  3. I do not really understand the situation. If they do not go to the parish every Sunday, what kind of a service do they have on Sunday? That service would be the proper place and time I would think, and would determine the process for the scrutinies.

    This might put a burden on the catechists, to attend in every one of 15 villages. Perhaps they can be clustered, 3-5 ceremonies each weekend. Rotate the 3 scrutinies and all 15 villages could host one.

    The normal Sunday service should be the setting I would think. Is a priest present? How is catechesis done? What is the real community that they are joining, the far off parish or some closer group?

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #3:
      I was the one who forwarded this inquiry to Non Solum from a missionary friend. The situation is this: one priest, one parish, forty-some mission churches and chapels. Each village has its own leadership, and they gather on Sundays for a Word service. Mass is celebrated when the pastor makes a visit.

      How much of the scrutinies can be celebrated by lay leaders (catechists) and still maintain the integrity of the Church’s intention here?

      To Rita’s point, I believe (but I’m not certain) that pastors are already deputed to preside at the Rite of Election.

      But this is illustrative of the situation in many mission lands. We are accustomed to ready transportation and the merging of 47 small parishes into one would be a crisis. In Central America, there were never 47 priests to staff these churches. This is how it always has been: Mass every month or so.

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