Oil of catechumens

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Thank you so much for your insight into celebrating the rites of initiation.  I am the coordinator of the RCIA process in our parish, and have been working diligently with our pastor to take our process to the next level.  Your book “Celebrating Initiation, A Guide for Priests”  has been invaluable to this effort.  We always refer to your book on Celebrating Initiation as we strive to make the celebration of these rites more fruitful for catechumens and candidates, as well as for the entire parish. Your thoughts cut to the core of the rituals and are so “right on” in terms of what makes sense in bringing the beauty and true intention these ancient rituals to life  today.

Our question is about the use of the oil of catechumens.  We have always only used it during the Catechumenate (and honestly if we remember).
In your book, you indicate that the oil of catechumens used to be used in conjunction with the Scrutinies during Lent, but that the framers of the revised Catechumenate decided that Lent was getting crowded with too many rituals, so now the oil is used for anointing solely during the Catechumenate Period.

Can we still use the oil during the celebration of the Scrutinies? Father is planning a preaching series during Lent about the sin, the devil & plans to talk about exorcism. We wondered if we could include anointing in these rites to illustrate this powerful process during the period of Purification & Enlightenment?

Thank you so much in advance for your insight.  It is greatly appreciated.

God Bless you,


A: Thanks for your kind remarks about my book, and thanks for your diligent work for the Church.

You read my comments correctly. The oil of catechumens used to be called the oil of exorcism, and it was used with scrutinies in the early Church. We no longer have the provision to that – except in the case of children of catechetical age. The RCIA permits an anointing of the children during the one scrutiny assigned to them (RCIA 301).

So, if you have children in your group, then the priest may anoint them during Lent. Otherwise, the RCIA envisions that this takes place prior to the Rite of Election.