Chester 7

Woman at the Well – Chester Cathedral

‘Well that was a bit of a surprise, it was a different Gospel than I expected. We had the Samaritan Woman at the well.’ A lady commented, to which the reply came ‘Yes that is because it is the third Sunday of Lent and in the RCIA, catechumens celebrate the first Scrutiny’.

The inevitable question was put: why are their Scrutinies,


Scrutinies are a means of putting oneself in a proper state of spiritual readiness receive the full Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. They mark an intense time of preparation of the catechumen which coincides with the rest of the community’s Lentern observance. So following the homily in the Sunday Mass the catechumens come forward to celebrate a special rite which include an exorcism and specific prayers, and which will then be followed by dismissal of those catechumens. [RCIA 128-131].

They have a spiritual purpose which is to offer a time when the catechumen searches deep into their soul to uncover times of sinfulness for which repentance can be asked. It is a time of prayer and of exorcism, and the celebrant and RCIA team give a lot of thought as to which form of the rite to adopt A or B [RCIA 140-1].The idea of an ‘Exorcism’ can sound a bit scary, but careful consideration of the rite beforehand with the catechumen can help to make either Form or B be of particular meaning:helping them to discern their particular weakness and to know that through God’s mercy they will be protected and  healed. It makes a good introduction to this Jubilee Year of Mercy – a theme that can be explored further during the final period of Mystagogy. 


  • In the Intercessions at all the Sunday Masses Include a prayer for the catechumens who are to be initiated at the Easter Vigil, and a separate prayer for those who will come into Full Communion with the Catholic Church.

A period of reflection takes place before each Scrutiny perhaps during the week at the RCIA session when there is opportunity to delve deeper both in thought and conversation. There is further reflection after each Scrutiny and in preparation of the next Scrutiny.


  • Inform the assembly before Mass begins what rite is going to take place, and remind them that this coincides with their own period of preparation for the Sacrament of reconciliation.
  • If journaling has been introduced then this is a good time to remind everyone to jot down their thoughts before and after each Sunday.
  • There is a lot happening in this period of RCIA for the team and priest. A wall planner in the sacristy can be a helpful reminder to all involved.
  • Do let other ministries know of special rites eg musicians, readers, altar servers.

A further resource from the RCIA Network is D1 Period of Purification and Enlightenment (pdf) – one of the series Seeking the Living God of material for teams.