When one is born into a Catholic family, the child is usually baptized and raised in the faith. However, when someone is not born into the faith they cannot revert back to physical infancy. Instead, the current Church relies on the early practices of conversion among the early church, which converted Jews and Gentiles alike. In today’s society, however, the paths are not for Jew and Gentile, but for the believer and the nonbeliever. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to join the Catholic Church.
The Path For Nonbelievers
Step 1: Accept Christ
This may sound like a given, but this is a very important first step. Someone who has never been baptized or been raised in the faith first needs to understand what they are about to do. They must accept Christ as their Lord and Savior and be led to serve in the Catholic faith. This must be an authentic dedication to our Holy Father in order for the rest of the process to be successful.
Step 2: Committing To The Church
Once you are sure of your commitment to Christ, speak with a church leader. They will advise you and guide you through any questions before you stand before the parish. Once you take this step, the local parish assembly will acknowledge and allow you to continue your process of becoming a full-fledged Catholic.
Step 3: Being A Catechumen
You are given a special title of “catechumen” at this point of the process, which allows you special rights within the church, but you will not partake in the two universally accepted sacraments: baptism and communion. This is the time for study and prayer, as you work with the Church on your path of repentance, as you reflect on Catholic doctrines and the Scriptures to make your life line up with the will of God and follow his callings. A fair warning, this is a process that can possibly take years, but did not God love us first to do much more for us? Once you have been assessed as ready, the next step arrives.
Step 4: Being An Elect
When you are ready, you may then transition from being a catechumen to one of the elect. However, one cannot just do this anytime he or she wants, but only on the first Sunday of Lent. On this day, you will request to fulfill your rites at the end of Lent and this new title will be given to you. Lent represents the final stretch of initiation, as it is another, more spiritually intense dedication to reflection and prayer. After Lent comes the final step.
Step 5: The Easter Vigil
The Easter Vigil held on Holy Saturday night is the official ceremony. It is here that the elect will receive an adult baptism, being immersed once for each branch of the Holy Trinity. They are dressed in white robes and blessed with prayers and anointed oils before the rest of the Mass commences, where they will fully participate, culminating in their first communion with the Catholic Church, and their rites being fulfilled.
The Path For A Believer
Step 1: The Profession Of Faith
A believer is one who has already accepted Christ and has been baptized into the faith by another denomination separate from the Catholic Church. In these cases, a believer must similarly profess his faith. However, instead of being granted a title of a catechumen, they are given a different name.
Step 2: Being A Candidate
A Christian will now be a Catholic candidate and go through similar studies as the catechumen, but ultimately their time is extremely different. The process will instead be more of a focus upon specific Catholic doctrine that he or she will take up upon becoming a member of the Church. Once they are ready, they will also take their final step.
Step 3: The Holy Eucharist
On the Holy Saturday night, the candidates partake in communion just like the elect also joining the Catholic Church. And, while not necessary, a baptism of pouring water can be performed in some circumstances.
This may sound like a lot of time and effort in order to just join a church, but doesn’t this method reflect how Christ wanted the Church to be in his final commandment to make disciples and teach them, as stated in Matthew 28:19-20? Ultimately, if you feel the call of Christ to serve within the Catholic Church, take this as an opportunity to truly grow and understand what it is you believe and how you should walk with Christ.
Source: Our Catholic Faith