Q. 1. Can you tell me, what are the "scrutinies?"
A. 1. "Scrutiny" is the term for the examination of catechumens before the Sacrament of Baptism. In ancient times there were three such scrutinies and later on the number was increased to seven. From the Middle Ages onwards owing to the fact that most who received baptism were infants the prescribed scrutinies were reduced to that now found in the ritual for conferring baptism.
According to # 141 in the ritual book for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, scrutinies are as follows: “The scrutinies, which are solemnly celebrated on Sundays and are reinforced by an exorcism, are rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective or sinful in the hearts of the elect [those preparing for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist]; to bring out, then strengthen, all that is upright, strong and good. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life. These rites, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all.”
Basically, these rites involve prayers of intercession and the laying on of hands so that the Holy Spirit may be invoked and the spirit of evil cast out. The scrutinies are celebrated purposefully at Mass, so that the whole congregation is given the opportunity to pray for and support those preparing for the Easter Sacraments and to make the point that conversion is not only a personal matter but a communal commitment.