If you would like to explore Catholicism or the possibility of becoming Catholic, please call the Christian Initiation Office at (626) 446-2804.
- How Do I Begin? What Do I Do?
Sometimes it is a quiet but insistent inner urging. Sometimes it feels like an irresistible and powerful need. Sometimes it seems absolutely clear and certain, something you have known all along. Other times, it is a tentative question, full of uncertainties, unknowns, even anxieties.
You may have felt moved by a Catholic friend, spouse, or a Mass, but it is an idea that appeals to you.
No matter how the feeling arose or what its shape is for you, if you are feeling drawn to explore the Catholic faith, we welcome you and your search. It is important to take those vague yearnings for “something more” very seriously, because they are often the way in which we are called forward to deeper spiritual growth, deeper communion with God and all of life.
Catholics are Christians, united with Protestant and Orthodox Christians in our belief that Jesus Christ has revealed to us in human form the loving nature of God and God’s dream for all people. With many other Christians, we believe that Christ lives on still revealing God to us through the Spirit, who calls us to help God’s dream become a reality by making the earth a place of justice, compassion, and peace.
Catholics believe that all of us who are baptized are part of a people, a global family, thousands of years old. We believe that Christ’s Spirit lives not only in individual hearts, but also in the people – all of us together – who are Christ’s hands and feet and voice in the world. Catholics believe that the Baptized, all together, are Christ’s Body on earth, called to be his presence in every time and in every land in which we live. That is why Mass is so important to us: it is the way in which we come together to remember who we are, and then to be sent back out to the world on our mission to bring Christ’s love into every situation of our lives.
Catholics believe then, that Christ is present not only in individuals and their personal relationship with God, but also in the community of the Church, and the world in which we live. The sacramental vision of Catholicism emphasizes that God’s presence is to be found everywhere in life: in nature and beauty, in the arts and human love, in learning and the intellect, in you and me, in bread broken and wine shared.
Catholics are ordinary people, who struggle, and fail like everyone else, but who often sense, and always celebrate the extraordinary, determined love that infuses all of life and is at the heart of the mystery of God.
What is the Process Through Which One Becomes A Catholic?
If you have never been baptized…. You will have ample time to explore and grow and make your decision. You will take part in a process called the “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults” (RCIA). There are several periods to this process:
The Period of Inquiry
This is exactly what it says: a time to inquire and explore, without any strings attached, and without having to make any commitments. It goes on as long as you want or need, and is meant to help you get a sense of how God is acting in your life, and what Catholicism is all about.
The Period of the Catechumenate
If and when you feel you are ready to make a commitment to become a Catholic Christian, you will be welcomed by the Catholic community during a Sunday Mass. You are then called a Catechumen, which means that you are a kind of an apprentice member of the Church, preparing for the full initiation. The period of the Catechumenate usually lasts a year, and longer if that seems best for you. During that time, you are able to reflect each week on the scriptures of the Sunday Mass, and on what questions those scriptures raise for you about your life and purpose, our Church and our society. You will be given a companion (“sponsor”) to talk with – an ordinary Catholic who will be there to share your reflections and to be a friend to you as you ask your questions.
The Period Of Purification And Enlightenment
When it seems that you are ready to fully enter the Church and take on its work in our world, you will be baptized at the next Easter time. During the forty days before Easter, known as Lent, you will be asked to enter a time of deeper prayer and reflection to prepare you for this great event.
The Period of Mystagogy
Baptism in most Catholic churches takes place on the night before Easter. On that night, you will be baptized confirmed, and brought to the table to join in the Eucharistic Prayer and share with us in the bread and cup of Holy Communion. Your initiation will mean not only that you are a full member of the community, but also that you have been sent by Christ to carry out his mission in the world in which we live.
In the fifty days after Easter, and through the whole first year after your Baptism, we continue to help you to reflect on the wonderful mysteries you have experienced in your own life and journey, and to discover how the Spirit is calling you to share God’s love with others.
What if I Have Already Been Baptized?
If you have been baptized in another Christian tradition, and have not been active in your church, or if your denomination is very different from Catholicism you may participate in a process similar to that for unbaptized people.
If you have been baptized in another Christian tradition and you have been an active Christian, then a process suited to your individual circumstances will be developed.
If you were baptized as a Catholic, but have never received Communion - You can participate in a process similar to that for unbaptized people, but especially suited for you.