The Catholic University of America

 Patricia Mann Defense

Final Examination of Patricia M. Mann

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

October 29, 2010 2:00p.m., Caldwell Room 125




Rev. Michael Witczak, S.L.D.


How Rituals Form and Transform: The Scrutiny Rite from Medieval to Modern Times

“Ritual catechesis” is a popular topic among liturgists and catechetical leaders.  This dyad has long been a topic in the Church. The Fathers of the Church knew ritual catechesis and treated it in their preaching.  This dissertation explores the scrutiny rite as a key to the catechumenate process.  Scrutinies flourished in the fifth century, faded into disuse in the Middle Ages, and have been restored to regular Lenten Sunday practice since the Second Vatican Council. Our study is methodological: how does ritual of the scrutinies, as catechesis, form and transform?

The study begins with the relationship among liturgy, ritual, and catechesis.  Catherine Bell serves as a guide to Ritual Studies. Then, turning to the history of Christian initiation, I explore evidence about the scrutinies from Roman and Frankish liturgical sources, following Antoine Chavasse’s insights.  After the collapse of the scrutiny into a single celebration (eighth century), the medieval ritual re-expanded in a process of restoration before and after the Second Vatican Council. The 1988 pastoral adaptation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for the United States is a key source for my final reflections.  The last chapter integrates the liturgical and theological study of the previous chapters to reveal the scrutiny as a source of catechesis.

The scrutiny emerges as a transformative ritual.  It catechizes through gestures and words.  The early medieval scrutiny was dramatic, taking place while the elect stood fasting and naked as Satan was adjured to be gone.  The present, rite less dramatic, still evokes transformation by its symbols and words.  The scrutinies catechize the elect in an active way about Satan, evil, and the victorious power of grace.  This catechesis is a formation that combines intellect and emotion, liturgy and teaching, word and act, to touch the hearts and minds of the elect. It affects and effects who they are as members of the Church. The scrutiny forms and transforms a new member of God’s People, a new part of Christ’s body, a new building block in the temple of the Spirit.