The Armchair Liturgist: Sung Intercessions At Scrutinies

The occasional music director gets a request for something like this. We covered the scrutinies here years ago. Here is the discussion on the intercessions.

The North American Forum promoted a deeper experience of these. These RCIA petitions are not “general” intercessions as such, they do have a similar structure and certainly could be sung. If a parish isn’t singing the intercessions (or at minimum the response) then singing these do serve to highlight this portion of the scrutiny. It elevates it from a parish assembly “eavesdropping” on what is essentially an examination of conscience. It might even serve as an examination of the consciences of the assembly, and spark important reflection before people approached their confessors.

Most catechumenate directors I’ve worked with were Forum-trained, so this was about the time of year that I would get index cards or slips of paper with particular sins. It was my task to distribute them through three weekends.

When I got something like “doubting God,” I might elaborate a bit and look for an apposite virtue in the readings or psalm. In Psalm 27, we sing of the Lord being light and salvation, so my full petition might be something like “From doubts we have of you, O God; deliver us with the light of your Word, we pray … Kyrie eleison.”

I was slightly surprised at the dismissive tone in some of the discussion here. The original purpose of Lent was to provide an intense preparation for baptism. Just because a person was unbaptized, that didn’t mean the Church spared itself the effort of cultivating a sense of sin in newcomers who were committing to Christ.

I’m also surprised that reform2 musicians would decline an opportunity to sing the Mass, that is: a portion of the Mass that is eminently suited to chanting.

My new parish does not sing these. I think I will miss that this year. But for parishes that are considering it, where would you weigh in with your directives? Sit in the purple chair and dictate: sung intercessions, possibly with locally-composed petitions? Or not?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Sung Intercessions At Scrutinies

  1. charlesincenca says:

    Couple of reactions: First, in that these prayers mimic the Univ.Prayer in form, a most effective ad least “intrusive” manner is by simply chanting the response, “Lord, here our prayer” (scale degrees 7, 6.7, 1) which is done for the UP at our church as well. (I find the juxtaposition of the RCIA intentions and the UP jarring and redundant.) Secondly, I would ascribe the “tepid” response at MSF to a common concern that RCIA as widely proffered is not at all realized as a full rite with all liturgical credence among participants, leaders, clergy and congregations. In that regard, it fails all litmus tests regarding “singing the Mass” because, well, it’s NOT the Mass, it is more an embolism. In any case, it is a bit of an orphan looking for a true home in ritual. David Haas notwithstanding.

    • Todd says:

      Hmm. I would say that the scrutinies are at least as much as part of the Mass as the propers. Unlike a wedding, the presumption here is Sunday Mass. At the very least, they are a sacramental ritual. If you sing the Mass, it follows that you sing the sacraments, right?

      I like the response “Kyrie eleison,” or at the very least, “Lord have mercy,” as that communicates the penitential nature of this ritual.

      • Liam says:

        Except that the RCIA ritual is not proposed to be part of every Mass on a given Sunday – it’s a ritual inserted into Mass. (By contrast, the propers are part of the standing permanent options for each Mass (Sunday and weekday).) That’s merely to acknowledge why they can be a puzzle to figure out how best to realize in the context of a Mass (I favor singing them, so I join you on the result. But I understand Charles’s sense that they are something of a puzzle.)

  2. charlesincenca says:

    Thanks, Liam and Todd for thoughtful responses. I won’t belabor a discussion of whether scrutinies are organically integral to the constitution of Mass. What I will further offer is that in the last 26 years at my current and last tenure under three pastors, not a one of them ever had a firm, coherent and consistent grip as to how to proceed with them at Mass. Ever. Even this year our pastor was confused about A v. C readings, which were unfortunately manifested (unannounced to me) on 1st Lent (arggh) and now totally abandoned in favor of the consistency of the C cycle. This is situational I realize, but, it does indicate a sort of nebulous hesitancy to invest in RCIA as an actual “rite.”
    As far as the ritual-speak of the Scrutinies, I’d simply line ’em up and ask them “Why do you want to become a Roman Catholic?” Then I’d hopefully await answers other than “I dunno” or ” ‘Cause my wife/husband wants me to.” Sigh.

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