Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D



How to Become a Catholic


 




Praise be to God for your wanting to enter His Church! I, for one, welcome you to Her. Thank God for the gift of faith that He's giving you, and ask Him to help you treasure it!

What you must do now is:
  • Study to understand what the Church teaches.

  • Use your will -- choose -- to intellectually submit to those teachings, to the Christ-given authority of the Church to interpret Sacred Scripture and to formalize dogma and doctrine. If there's something you don't understand, trust that it's a problem with your understanding and not a problem with the Church's authentic teaching. Ask questions!

  • Get baptized and confirmed. If you've already been baptized, say in a Baptist or Pentecostal faith community, you will not need to be baptized if the baptism was valid -- i.e., if water was at least poured over your forehead, the words "I baptize thee (or you) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" were pronounced, and the person who baptized you intended to baptize you. If your priest isn't sure whether or not your baptism was valid, you will be conditionally baptized -- i.e., you will undergo the rite of baptism but with the words changed to "If thou art not baptized, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Regarding the first goal, there are two ways one typically prepares to become Catholic. One can often read catechisms, study the Faith on one's own, and then satisfy a priest that he is ready to enter the Church. Some priests will meet with you one-on-one to talk about the Faith with you in order to make sure you understand what the Church teaches, and will then baptize and confirm you when they think you are adequately prepared.

More typically, though, RCIA will be expected. "RCIA" stands for "Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults," a rite started in 1972 and intended for the unbaptized, but typically used for anyone who enters the Church, baptized or not.

Classes for those preparing for the RCIA -- "RCIA classes" -- usually last for nine months, meeting once a week, and are structured such that you enter the Church at Easter, along with many other adults, by being baptized (or conditionally baptized) if necessary, confirmed, and receiving your first Holy Communion all at once. If you are already baptized, you enter RCIA as a "candidate"; if you are not baptized, you're referred to as a "catechumen."

These classes are usually run at the parish level by laypeople -- and they tend to be incredibly awful. The Faith is often watered-down, and outright heresy isn't uncommon. It's completely silly and wasteful that, for ex., some highly educated Protestant who's read his way into the Church by studying the Fathers, or some autodidact sort who's read four different catechisms and knows the Faith better than the appointed RCIA instructor is made to endure the insipid RCIA process. Alas.

If you are made to go through RCIA, I still recommend reading catechisms, the older the better. In fact, I not only "recommend" it, I can't stress this highly enough. The human element of the Church is in a wretched condition, and has been since the Second Vatican Council; you must take responsibility for your own catechesis if the only Catholic instruction available to you is what's typically available.

In any case, what most people do when entering the Church is contact their local parish and talk to the priest.1 But I  highly, strongly urge you to find a parish or chapel that offers the traditional Latin Mass, even if the place is farther away than the parish in which you live.

What is "the traditional Latin Mass" ("TLM")? It's the form of the Mass that grew slowly and organically over a millennia and a half and which was "set in stone" at the Council of Trent in the 16th century. After the Second Vatican Council ("Vatican II"), which took place between 1962 and 1965, a new form of the Mass was quickly put together. This new form -- called "the Novus Ordo" ("NO") -- was a disaster, failing to accurately reflect Catholic doctrine, beauty, poetry, and tradition, but is still the form of the Mass offered at most parishes today. The traditional Latin Mass, however, was never abrogated, and it is resurging in popularity in a very big way. You can read more about all that at the link just above, but don't worry about that right now. First, start in on those catechisms!



About That Wretched Condition of the Human Element of the Church...

After you've read a few catechisms and understand Church teaching as it had been understood for 2,000 years, I urge you to read the Traditional Catholicism 101 page. In fact, I urge you to read it twice -- reading it through once, and then going back and rereading, clicking the links as you go along the second time around.

You have to know that it was foretold that the Church will follow Christ in His Passion, that we will suffer with Him, and that, before the Last Judgment, things will heat up in that regard. I don't know, and am not saying, that we are in the "End Times," but there is no doubt that those who hold to the Faith are being persecuted -- not just by the world, but by those very Catholics we should be able to trust to teach, sanctify, and shepherd us. From the Pope down to Bishops down to many priests come confusion and, too often, outright heresy and sacrilege. You must come to know what the Church traditionally teaches, and do your best to find -- or help make -- a parish or chapel that offers sound teaching and the traditional sacramental rites.

A few other things you simply must get clear about if you're to survive becoming and being Catholic these days:
  • You must know what papal infallbility is and isn't. Not every papal muttering is dogma. Read the page in the "For Protestants" section about papal infallibility so you can learn to differentiate between some papal utterance made to a journalist on an airplane, and what you must submit to intellectually. Always keep in mind that authentic Catholic teaching cannot ever contradict itself. What was true 2,000 or 800 years ago is still true now. This is basic logic.

  • You must be clear about what "the Church" is and isn't. The Pope isn't "the Church." The Cardinals aren't "the Church." The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic; She is the spotless Bride of Christ, against which the gates of Hell will never prevail, and is made not just of the Church Militant (those being saved on earth), but the Church Suffering (those being cleansed in Purgatory) and the Church Triumphant (those who are partaking of the divine nature in Heaven). You have to have a Platonic view of the Church, and be careful with language in this regard. If a Pope were to teach outright heresy, it wouldn't be "the Church" doing this; the Church is incapable of that. The confusion that prevails these days isn't confusion in "the Church" Herself; it's confusion in the human element of the Church.


To Sum Up

Do these steps:

1. Start developing a prayer life before anything. There are prayers you can memorize (and some you should memorize), but praying in your own words, from the heart, is also important. Ask God to lead you to all Truth and to nourish your burgeoning gift of faith.

2. Catechize yourself. Find catechisms here for free, in pdf format: Catholic Library (I recommend going through the Baltimore Catechisms). You'd also likely benefit from Archibishop Fulton Sheen's audio catechism, which you can listen to here (also for free): Archbishop Fulton Sheen's Radio Catechism.

3. Then read the Catholicism 101 page twice -- first just straight through, and then again, clicking on the links as you go along.

4. Explore the rest of the "Being Catholic" section for pages that will "baby-step" you through the "how-tos" of Catholic practices. Use this site's search engine to look up things you have questions about as you go along:

 
5. Contact a priest near you1-- going out of your way, if possible, to find a priest who offers the traditional Latin Mass (also called "the Extraordinary Form" or the "Vetus Ordo"). Visit parish websites or call parish offices to find out which form of the Mass is offered at a given parish. Tell the priest that you want to enter the Church, that you've catechized yourself, and that you would like to avoid RCIA classes, if possible. Attend RCIA classes if he says you must.

6. After satisfying the priest that you know the Faith and are ready, set up a time with him to get baptized, if needed, and confirmed and to receive your first Communion. If you're made to attend RCIA classes, you'll be baptized with many others at a pre-determined time (usually at Easter).

7. If you're a loner, that's fine (of course!), but if you want more of a sense of community, check your parish bulletins for post-Mass get-togethers, groups, meetings, events, etc. Some parishes are busy, some aren't. Some are friendly, some aren't so much. If your parish isn't what you wish it were, be the change you'd like to see -- but always keep your eyes on Christ, first and foremost. He is why you're there!

If you get discouraged by the sad state of the human element of the Church in these crazy times, don't despair; trust in Christ always, trust that the Church is the Ark of Salvation and that the gates of Hell will never prevail against Her, and read the page "Surviving the Postconcilar Madness" for a little inspiration.

And that is how you become a Catholic!





Footnotes:

1 If you're American, find your diocese here: http://www.usccb.org/about/bishops-and-dioceses/diocesan-locator.cfm. Then use that website to find your local parish. Another option is to enter the Church through the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (the SSPX). Locate an SSPX chapel near you here: https://sspx.org/en/community/priories



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