Fundamentally, becoming Catholic is a very simple matter, as simple as becoming a Christian of whatever community or denomination: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9); “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2). A person becomes a Catholic Christian through faith and baptism. By faith and baptism, a man or woman personally accepts God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, and the eternal salvation He offers together with it. He or she renounces all sin and evil, accepts divine adoption as a son or daughter of God, accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, and receives the Holy Spirit of God in the heart. Fundamentally, that’s what becoming Catholic is all about.
But it does not – it cannot – stop there. Immediately after the first Jewish converts were baptized by St. Peter and the other Apostles, they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). They followed a whole new way of life; God’s Way – the Way that leads to true Life. Becoming a Catholic, therefore, requires training and preparation in this Way. It is much more than merely beginning to attend services at a Catholic Church; even if you’ve already been validly baptized in another Christian community, and instructed in the Christian life, there is much to learn about the “apostles’ teaching” that may not be handed down within your former denomination.
The process of instruction in the faith of the Catholic Church begins with what is known as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA. Most Catholic parishes have an RCIA program that runs every year. You may inquire about the RCIA program at any Catholic parish near you – at the parish office or by talking to a priest there. (The RCIA programs at some parishes are sometimes better than those at others. If you would like help finding a good program in your area, contact us and we will be glad to help.)
We also recommend that you also get a copy of a good catechism and study it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, is an official reference book on the teachings of the Catholic Church. There is also another official, but shorter Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, written in question and answer format. Finally, for teens and young adults, there is an official youth catechism called the YouCat. Some other good catechisms include The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church, by Fr. John Hardon, and The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington D.C.
Jesus Christ founded a Church, and he entrusted her with all the means of salvation. She has remained united by a common faith, sacraments, and hierarchical governance for over 2000 years. Though she is made up of sinners as well as saints, the Catholic Church is the one true church of Christ; all who come to knowledge of this fact, cannot be saved without entering her. How could it be any other way? In order to be saved, one must do what one knows to be the will of God. But God desires for all his children to be one, as He is One (See Jn 17:20-21).
May the grace of God bring you into ever-greater conformity with His Holy Will. May the Love of Christ be with you on your journey of faith!
For more on becoming Catholic and why, read this tract.