Becoming Catholic is one of life’s most profound and joyous experiences. Some are blessed enough to receive this great gift while they are infants, and, over time, they recognize the enormous grace that has been bestowed on them. Others enter the Catholic fold when they are older children or adults. This tract examines the joyful process by which one becomes a Catholic.
A person is brought into full communion with the Catholic Church through reception of the three sacraments of Christian initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Communion—but the process by which one becomes a Catholic can take different forms.
A person who is baptized in the Catholic Church becomes a Catholic at that moment. One’s initiation is deepened by Confirmation and the Eucharist, but one becomes a Catholic at baptism. This is true for children who are baptized Catholic (and receive the other two sacraments later) and for adults who are baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist at the same time.
Those who have been validly baptized outside the Church become Catholics by making a profession of the Catholic faith and being formally received into the Church. This is normally followed immediately by confirmation and the Eucharist.
Before a person is ready to be received into the Church, whether by Baptism or by profession of faith, preparation is necessary. The amount and form of this preparation depends on the individual’s circumstance. The most basic division in the kind of preparation needed is between those who are unbaptized and those who have already become Christian through baptism in another church.
For children who have reached the age of reason (age seven), entrance into the Church is governed by the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children (RCIC) or Rite of Christian Initiation for Teens (RCIT).
“I did not fully grasp the importance of the selection of an RCIA class until the day of my conversion. Coming from an academic world, I was drawn to the RCIA class at Lourdes because of its reputation for intellectual rigor cultivated by Father Brian’s nuanced understanding of Church teaching, and, in this sense, it did not disappoint. But standing alongside my fellow catechumens after we received our first communion, I felt an emotional intimacy that is rare in life, let alone from a class. While I didn’t realize it in the midst of our weekly routine in the months leading up to our conversion, this intimacy was quietly growing through shared moments of joy in experiencing spiritual truth, laughter at Father Brian’s jokes, fulfillment through intellectual growth, tears during first confession, and peace in experiencing God’s love. On the day of conversion, it felt as though all of our worldly pretensions were shed, leaving just us with one another and God. Whether you are a cradle Catholic striving for deeper faith, a newcomer pursuing conversion, or an atheist seeking truth, RCIA at Lourdes offers something truly special that I would recommend to anyone. There is also beer.” —Jeanette Goldwaser, MD