The Third Scrutiny for RCIA candidates and catechumens was held at St. Paul on April, 2nd at the 10 a.m. Mass. We had the good fortune of having this Mass concelebrated with Father Micheal and His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas. It was a very special blessing to have the Third Scrutiny administered by the Archbishop. This Third Scrutiny was the last appearance by the RCIA Class, as a class, at our 10 a.m. Sunday Mass. Their next appearance at the church together will be at Easter Vigil, a truly special night for all of them and for all of us that can witness their testament of faith as they join in full communion with the Church. It has truly been a privilege for those of us who have been able to witness firsthand, this journey of faith they have been on. Truly God has blessed us all.
With such an ominous title, you might think, as I did, the discussions related to death and what comes after were destined to be dark and heavy. I was wrong. Many of the topics we discussed this evening were centered around forgiveness and hope.
As Catholics we mustn’t think of death as an end of any kind. It is, in fact, an entryway to eternal life. The Particular Judgement at the moment of death is the culmination of the preparations we have been making to spend eternity in the presence of God. Then, at the end of time, the General Judgement will make known to everyone the consequences of each of our personal actions.
Each of us has likely met someone who prefers a life without God. Free choice allows us to take this path, but not without consequence. Those who have chosen a life without God will also be allowed to spend eternity without Him. It is important to point out that God does not send us to hell, but He allows us to choose whether or not we want to spend eternity in perfect community with Him.
A path to heaven is not an easy one; we all will turn away from God and sin. God has granted the church the power to forgive sins on Earth through the sacrament of reconciliation and, of course, God can forgive any sin He wishes, but sin has a double consequence. Once forgiven of our sin, we must still make reparations. These reparations can be made in this lifetime, but God has also given humanity the gift of Purgatory. Purgatory is a place of purification where the impurities of sin are removed from our souls in preparation for eternal life in the presence of God.
We touched on the analogy of testing gold in fire. In this analogy our souls are gold: ever so valuable yet not without flaws. Fire symbolizes God’s love for us. This love will surround us forcing out all of the impurities so all that remains is the purest version of ourselves. Once this process (our time in Purgatory) is complete, we are worth to enter into heaven.
We began our class with a prayer for a happy death from St. Vincent Ferrer that helped put into perspective how significant and hopeful the moment of death should be to Christians. Towards the end of the prayer, we ask God to grant us “full consciousness and the power of speech, sincere contrition for my sins, true faith, firm hope and perfect charity.” I often take the first two for granted and struggle with the rest. But this prayer shows how important each one of those is to express our love for God in the final moments of this lifetime. This is our last chance to demonstrate to God the importance of our relationship with Him and our desire to spend eternity with Him.
One day I hope to be able to stand next to God without shame and fear and just be with Him who created me in his likeness. I know I have a long way to go to prepare for that moment, but I can start now by living a life that will make Him proud to call me his own. As St. Thomas Aquinas stated, we should always “begin with the end in mind.”
On Sunday, Mar. 19, our RCIA elect and candidates underwent the first of Three Scrutinies. From the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Blog the scrutinies are defined as
“rites of conversion and repentance. They include prayers of intercession and exorcism and are intended to deliver the elect from sin, protect them from temptation and invite them closer to Christ, who is the living water, the light of the world and the Resurrection and the Life. The three Scrutinies are celebrated on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent.”
Included below are photos from the 1st Scrutiny at St. Paul for this year
I am a cradle Catholic as was my father. My mother converted to Catholicism when she married my father. She came from a very strict Methodist family. I was baptized after a few days on this planet. I went through 9 years of Catholic schools. As a child I don’t ever remember missing a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation. We had Mass during the week with our classmates, on Sundays with our families. I was taught by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Catechism was part of my elementary education. If I do the math correctly I had my first Confession and first Communion in the 2nd grade. I was confirmed in the third grade. I was an Altar Boy as soon as I was old enough. I think that was the 4th grade. I continued to serve Mass and lector Mass all the way through High School. I really did love serving at Mass and did it at every opportunity. All in all I think I was pretty much the prototypical Catholic boy of the 1960s.
As I left school and entered the Army and “adult” life, I drifted from the Church. I can’t say that is was a moral stance, I can’t say that I was defiant. I don’t know that I ever made a conscious decision to leave. It just sort of happened. While I was in the Army I met a girl that I would eventually marry. She was raised with little to no religion in her life so as we married and started our family not much thought was given to religion. Apart from the scolding I’d get from my mother I really never thought much about my religion. It was easy for life to get in the way. But I never truly questioned the things I’d been taught in Catholic schools. I’d certainly get into discussions from time to time over things I agreed or disagreed with in the Church, but I never stopped believing in the Apostle’s Creed.
With all that said, I was truly moved last night by the Rite of Election. I am impressed and in awe of our Catechumens and Candidates in RCIA. I was blessed with the opportunity to stand in for a god parent as one of our Catechumenates signed the book at the Church of the Nativity on Tuesday evening. Experiencing the joy this person felt at the mere act of committing to this process was truly one of the highest honors I’ve felt in my life. I find myself almost envying the call to faith that these people are feeling. I wonder, had I not had the upbringing I had, would I feel so strongly called by God as our class does
On Sunday, March 5th at the 10 am Mass the St. Paul faithful sent our Catechumens and Candidates to the Bishop for a major step in their call to faith. The Rite of Sending was performed by Father Nathan to prepare them for the Combined Rite of Election and Continuing Call to Conversion at the Church of the Nativity the following Tuesday. At the combined Rite they were enrolled as the Elect and blessed by the Archbishop on their journey toward full communion with the Catholic Church.
Below are a few photos from the Rite of Sending.
RCIA is a wonderful class for learning and healing. Both are very beneficial in grasping an understanding of how much God loves you and why you are His child. There are many questions one might have regarding the Catholic church that RCIA does a superb job of explaining. Everyone is open and willing to answer questions that are perplexing and that could hinder me from becoming closer to God. The lack of knowledge one has slowly disappears at each class. The more you read and delve into scripture and prayer opens a whole new beginning. We are all different. We all come from different paths and pasts, but one thing is certain. With God in our hearts we can be united as a church and share our eternal gift with others.
I had never heard the terms venial sin and mortal sin before. Instinctively, I think we all know that not all sin is created equal, but for me, now I have terms to go with that instinctive feeling.
A reflection that I really took away from today’s lesson was only briefly touched on in our Symbolon video, but I think it is something that is important for all Christians to remember. Just as God realizes that not all sins are created equal, we too need to remember that, especially when interacting with others. Sometimes when we are slighted, or see someone doing something sinful we perceive it as horrible. We need to remember that just as Christ loved us and gave up His life to forgive us our sins, so we too need to extend that grace to others.
We will bring others into the Church to experience God’s mercy by being a reflection of that mercy. Many outside and even inside the Church commit sins every single day; both venial and mortal. The most important thing for us to remember are the two greatest commandments given to us, to first love God and then to love others.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39