RCIA 459-463: Penitential Rite


In the 1972 provision edition of RCIA (think Roman Missal 1 here; our examination has been the equivalent of MR2) there was no penitential rite for baptized candidates. The Lenten scrutinies are designed for the unbaptized, in intent and language.

However, during the long period of consultation (1972-1988) leading up to the implementation of the “RCIA white book,” some parish ministers thought “something” was needed for candidates. As it was told to me, one particularly prominent RCIA figure was insistent. Insistent to the point that Part 4D was added for the 1988 edition.

Satisfied, came the question, with RCIA 450-472? And I heard the response was something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t think it’s really all that necessary.”

Let’s read about the optional penitential rite:

459. This penitential rite can serve to mark the Lenten purification of baptized but previously uncatechized adults who are preparing to receive the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist or to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. It is held within a celebration of the word of God as a kind of scrutiny, similar to the scrutinies for catechumens.

In other words, it looks like a scrutiny. It serves a similar function. It happens during Lent.

460. Because the penitential rite normally belongs to the period of final preparation for the sacraments, its celebration presumes that the candidates are approaching the maturity of faith and understanding requisite for fuller like in the community.

As with the scrutiny, the baptized candidates should be prepared for this penitential rite, if it is used.

461. Along with the candidates, their sponsors and the larger liturgical assembly also participate in the celebration of the penitential rite. Therefore the rite is to be adapted in such a way that it benefits all the participants. This penitential rite may also help to prepare the candidates to celebrate the sacrament of penance.

The liturgical challenge is how to communicate the need we all have for careful moral examination of our lives, and to act upon God’s call as a result of that examination. Note also the possible connection between this rite and the candidates’ upcoming celebration of penance.

462. This penitential rite may be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Lent or on a Lenten weekday, if the candidates are to receive the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist and/or be received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church at Easter; if not, at the most suitable time.

Roman pragmatism at work. This rite is assigned to the Second Sunday. If that’s not possible, choose a Lenten weekday. If confirmation and First Eucharist are scheduled at a time other than early Easter, make a sensible choice as to the most suitable time. That might be an ordinary Sunday. It might be a weekday or weeknight liturgy.

463. This penitential rite is intended solely for celebrations with baptized adults preparing for confirmation and eucharist and/or be received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church. Because the prayer of exorcism in the three scrutinies for catechumens who have received the Church’s election properly belongs to the elect and uses numerous images referring to their approaching baptism, those scrutinies of the elect and this penitential rite for those preparing for confirmation and eucharist have been kept separate and distinct. Thus, no combined rite has been included in Appendix I.

The scrutinies and penitential rite are segregated affairs. Scrutinies are not for the baptized, and the RCIA makes no provision for combining the elect and baptized candidates on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent.

That’s a lot. Did I miss anything important?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to RCIA 459-463: Penitential Rite

  1. Margaret says:

    after the homily, what is said in presenting the candidates. I don’t find anything in the Rite Book.
    thanks. Margaret

  2. Thanks–very informative!

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