CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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A time for healing and forgiveness not grilling

HONG KONG (SE): On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, parishes preparing to welcome adults and older children as new members of the Church through baptism at Easter, celebrate what is known as the scrutinies.

As the name suggests, the scrutinies involve a questioning of those presenting themselves for baptism. However, rather than an examination, it is regarded more as a rite of healing and strengthening.

The scrutinies are part of the Rite of Christian Initiation which came out of the Second Vatican Council, which Anglican priest, Father Ron Browning, describes as a gift from the Catholic Church to every denomination in the Christian world.

Writing in the Australian Journal of Mission Studies in December 2010, Father Browning says, “The local Church is the baptising community—it is responsible for and is the milieu of conversion.”

Father Browning continues, “This takes place by means of accompanied inquiry, shared personal response to scripture, an exploration of Church belonging, and discovering what it means to a Christian in the world.”

He calls it a sign that the community is embracing the candidate for baptism, rather than giving them a grilling on how well they may have studied during their catechumenate course.

“The revival and adaptation of the ancient practice, is one whereby individuals, who make inquiry, are embraced in community, rather than an educational programme that presents itself as a gift and challenge to be practiced by the Churches today,” the Australian priest comments.

While on the surface, the scrutinies may seem to be an invasion of privacy, they should be regarded more as the community inquiring how the candidate is getting on, as people come to baptism in stages of lived faith, not accumulated knowledge.

“Our task in the Churches is to engage searchers or inquirers, and ourselves with them, in a rhythm of making connections between persons, God, the Church and the world, with the outcomes of faith, ministry and enriched community. It is around this enterprise that the sacrament of initiation expresses its vitality and truth,” Father Browning continues.

The ritual says that the purpose of the scrutinies is to heal all that is weak, defective or sinful in the hearts of those who are now called the elect, to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life.

It notes that the questions about renouncing Satan, his works and empty promises, are serious questions that should be considered carefully.

The person presiding at the ceremony, catechists and those who have accompanied the person on their journey towards faith lay hands on them as a sign of forgiveness, healing and empowerment.

Also, since it is the run up to Easter, when the entire community will take part in their own scrutinies at the vigil celebration, it is an opportunity for each individual to ponder the questions for themselves.

Father Browning calls it a form of initiation consciousness, which he says is about developing a keen awareness and desire to engage searchers or inquirers, as well as ourselves within a rhythm of making connections between persons, God, the Church and the world, with the outcomes of faith, ministry and enriched community.

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