How to Become a Catholic
|Praise be to God
for your wanting to enter His Church! I, for one, welcome you to Her.
What you must do now is:
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
- Study to
understand what the Church teaches.
- Use your will --
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 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."
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.
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
In any case, what most people do when entering the Church is contact
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 Mass offered by
the Church for millennia. After the Second Vatican Council ("Vatican
II"), which took place between 1962 and 1965, a new form of the Mass
was put together. This new form -- called "the Novus Ordo" ("NO") --
was a disaster. But it's still the form of the Mass offered at most
parishes today. The traditional Latin Mass, however, was never
abrogated, and it is resurging in a 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...
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
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
- 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
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
own words, from the heart, is also important.
2. Catechize yourself. Find
catechisms here for free, in pdf format: Catholic Library (I
recommend going through the Baltimore Catechisms). Be willing to submit
yourself to the Church's teachings (i.e., be willing to embrace the
four creeds of the Church as your own. You'll find those four creeds --
the Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian
Creed, and Tridentine Creed -- here).
3. Then read the Catholicism 101 page twice.
First just straight through, and then clicking on the links as you go
along. Explore the rest of the "Being
Catholic" section of this site.
4. 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"). Visit parish websites or call parish
offices to find out which form of the Mass is offered. 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.
5. After satisfying the priest that you know the Faith and are ready,
set up a time with him to get baptized and confirmed, as needed. If
you're made to attend RCIA
classes, you'll be baptized and/or confirmed with many others at a
(usually at Easter).
6. 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
And that is how you become a Catholic!
1 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
an SSPX chapel near you here: https://sspx.org/en/community/priories
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