On Becoming Catholic
If you know of someone who may be interested in the Catholic Faith, please refer them to our Faith Formation sessions here at St. Martin’s. We offer combined sessions of the Rite of Christian Initiation (for the unbaptized) and learning about the Catholic Faith for those already validly baptized in another Christian denomination, (or those “born Catholics” who never received the other Sacraments of initiation, or learned enough about their faith). We usually can handle that all together, and it is not nearly as complicated as it sounds! We just call it all RCIA, and it all ends up working out.
Life can get messy, and sometimes people are reluctant or embarrassed to forge ahead with their desire to grow closer to God, through the Catholic Church. I have been involved with this process in the Church since 1989, as a volunteer about 12 of those years, and it is very rewarding to help people along this path of faith. If someone has asked you questions about being a Catholic, don’t ignore that. Their individual circumstances are carefully considered. Often, not everyone can meet the same session schedule, or take part in a group process at all. We will work with each person to bring about the best outcome. Please refer “inquirers” that you may meet to us, or another Catholic Church in the person’s area.
SOME COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BECOMING CATHOLIC
Why does it take so long?
The decision to become a Catholic Christian is a lifetime decision which affects the way we live our whole lives. It impacts our business decisions, our family life, our relationships. And so it is worthy of careful examination in order to be sure that this is the right choice. The Christian life is an ever-deepening relationship with the Risen Christ, present within
us and in the community of believers. Like any relationship, it takes time and attention to develop and deepen.
Will there be pressure on me to join the Church if I attend the inquiry classes?
No. The purpose of the process is to provide you with the information and experience you need to decide whether God is calling you to the Catholic way of life. You are the only one who can make that decision. Our role as leaders and teachers in the RCIA is to help you discern for yourself. If you decide that this is not for you, we will wish you well and pray for you as you continue your search. We do not expect you to have made a decision to become Catholic when you enter the RCIA.
The model for the process is Jesus’ method. When Jesus first encountered potential disciples in John 1:38-39, he asked them, “What do you want?” When they replied by asking him where he lived, he responded, “Come and see.” That is our approach: What do you need? Come and see whether that need can be met here. Worship with us, explore our belief and practice, spend a year among us participating in the community, and then decide whether you want to follow our way of life.
What if I just want to learn about the Catholic Church without joining?
We welcome people who just want to understand what being Catholic is all about. It is not unusual for people who are engaged or married to a Catholic to participate in the classes so that they will understand their spouse’s religion. This is also true of parents whose children are being raised Catholic – they want to know the answers to their children’s questions. Sometimes such persons enters the program to explore becoming a Catholic, decide that it is not what they want, but choose to stay in the classes for greater understanding. They are quite welcome to do so.
Why does it have to be so public, with all the rites and ceremonies at Mass?
Although in one sense the decision to embrace the Catholic faith is a deeply personal one, it also has a community dimension. Catholics believe that we encounter the Risen Christ first in the community of believers, then in the Word of God and the Sacraments, one of which is the Eucharist, the Breaking of the Bread (see Luke 24: 13-35). One’s faith is never a totally private matter. It is lived out in the context of community. Baptism invests us with the mission of Christ in the world. In accepting Christ, a person seeking baptism also accepts the Body of Christ, the Church, that whole motley crew of folks through whom Jesus chooses to be present in the world. The rites focus on the communal nature of Christianity and are an essential dimension of the process.
I was baptized Catholic and made my first Communion, but then my family stopped going to Church. I would like to be confirmed and be an active Catholic. Am I welcome in the RCIA?
Absolutely! Persons who have not practiced the faith as adults and have had little or no instruction in the faith are very comfortable in the RCIA even if they are already Catholic. Some adaptations are made to respect your baptism, and you may take Communion at Mass whenever you feel ready, or you may choose to wait until the Easter Vigil. We will work out whatever is best for you.
What about my children? If I become Catholic, can they do it too?
Of course your whole family is welcome. If neither parent is a practicing Catholic, we defer the baptism of children until the Easter Vigil. Infants and young children do not require additional preparation – they will grow in the faith just as any other person baptized as a young child. As the parent, you make that choice for them. School aged children or teenagers will be instructed in a process similar to the RCIA, adapted so as to be appropriate to their age. The older the person is, the more he or she must participate in the decision to be baptized. We also welcome into these classes children and teens who have been baptized but have not received instruction in the faith, and who have not received reconciliation (a.k.a. “confession”) and Eucharist at the customary age of seven or so. The expectation is that children who participate in this process will then enter the regular parish religious formation classes and continue their formation.
What do I do if I want to know more or enroll?
Call your local parish and make an appointment with the pastor or the director of religious formation. Here at St. Martin, we welcome inquiries at any time and will be glad to mail registration materials or meet with you.
If formal classes have not yet begun we will meet with you on a more informal basis, provide you with reading material, and perhaps assign a sponsor from among our parishioners, who will help you get acquainted and help you find answers to your questions. So, what have you got to lose? You have much to gain. Look into the RCIA for yourself, and share this information with persons who may be interested.