In parentheses after the title is “scrutinies,” and as we read in these first two of four instructional paragraphs of the Rites of Initiation for Children of Catechetical Age, these rites are modelled on adult scrutinies. Let read, then discuss:
291. These penitential rites, which mark the second step in the children’s Christian initiation, are major occasions in their catechumenate. They are held within a celebration of the word of God as a kind of scrutiny, similar to the scrutinies in the adult rite. Thus the guidelines given for the adult rite (RCIA 141-146) may be followed and adapted, since the children’s penitential rites have a similar purpose.
And what is that purpose? For adults, the operative phrase every catechumenate director can quote is “to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the (heart) … and to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good.” (RCIA 141) How is this accomplished in young people? For teens, it would seem that inclusion in the adult scrutinies would usually be warranted. For young children of single-digit age, a certain attention to their unformed moral character, age-appropriate, might be called for. Certainly, young boys and girls of any spiritual situation should be encouraged with the “bringing out and strengthening” of what is strong and good in them.
292. Because the penitential rites normally belong to the period of final preparation for baptism, the condition for their celebration is that the children are approach maturity of faith and understanding requisite for baptism.
This, a reminder that children must be very close to readiness when they are “elected” for baptism. Lent is not a time to cross one’s fingers and hope that a lion’s share of progress will be made when little or none has been in evidence so far.