The length of time before one can be baptized


This is something I’ve pondered for some time now: Why must one wait so long to be baptized in the Catholic Church?

My husband and I went through the RCIA process, and we were candidates (already baptized) not catechumens. But during our time in RCIA, and now as sponsors, we’ve seen catechumens go through the process.

I understand the length of time needed before confirmation, but I have trouble understanding why we wait so long to baptize adults, especially since we baptize infants.

I understand that infants are baptized based on the faith of their parents/family–but truth be told, I have friends whose children are all baptized Catholics, but they’ve never attended Mass since having children. I think this happens often.

I’ve seen catechumens come into RCIA who are being required to wait so long before baptism, one in particular comes to mind: This person, due to an involuntary action committed a few years back, had a court date come up after about six months into the RCIA process, and the result of that trial was prison time. This person will hopefully continue the RCIA process in prison, but all I could think is why couldn’t we allow this person to be baptized so he could have this important sacrament?


Your experience is of the norm. Your friend who is sentenced to prison is definitely outside the norm. perhaps he should request a priest to discuss the circumstances of his life and make a request for s special arrangement? I know this happens and can happen for your friend.


Children are baptized with the expectation of being taught the faith as they grow.
Adults must know the faith before baptism because they are old enough to be taught.

Those who have the use of reason must consent to the faith before being baptized. The length of time depends on circumstances, local practice, and the thoughts of the pastor. There was a time in the early Church when adults had about three years of catechism before being baptized. The wait time is relatively short in comparison today.

Candidates are technically not part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) since they have already been baptized. Depending on their background, they may have basic knowledge of Christian theology and need only to learn what they are lacking in Catholic theology.

Catechumens are not Christian. They need to be taught everything, the basics of Christianity (the Trinity and such) and the basics of Catholicism (the Sacraments and Saints and such). This wait could be shortened under the discretion of the pastor.


My question is still Why?

Why must someone have to learn so much about the faith before being baptized?

I ask because infants, will know nothing and be baptized–even if it’s said that their families with teach them the faith, the fact is that they are baptized knowing nothing of the faith. People baptized in Christian denominations are generally baptized quickly, especially when compared to RCIA.

I’m wondering why the RCIA process doesn’t include baptizing near the beginning of it and then conclude with Confirmation. I don’t understand the withholding of the Sacrament of Baptism when it comes to adults.


Mark 16:16 [Jesus says,] He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Those who have the use of reasoning must decide to believe what the Church teaches. There is no point getting baptized for the sake of it. If you do not believe, you will be condemned. The pastor could be culpable to God if he baptizes someone who does not believe the Faith.


He who believes in the gospel. That is why the Ethiopian eunuch was immediately baptized by Philip in Acts 8, if not, that was a very long chariot ride

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Acts 8:26-39

But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Canda′ce the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this:

“As a sheep led to the slaughter
or a lamb before its shearer is dumb,
so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken up from the earth.”

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.


St Philip used his discretion and decided to baptize the eunuch. The length of time before being baptized varies and can be shortened under the discretion of the pastor. :slight_smile:


I am one that believes these one-size-does-not-fit-all RCIA programs do more harm than good. They keep out more than they bring in. On the day of pentecost, thousands were added to the church THAT day. Rereading the book of Acts you see that it was instantaneous. Even Simon the sorceror (also in Acts 8) believed and was baptized. He stayed with Philip to learn more. He did end up falling away, but his baptism was forthwith.


And all baptisms are done under the discretion of the one doing the baptizing.


Our particular RCIA does not follow a set time, rather one can begin at any point and it concludes when the RCIA team, parish pastor, catechumen/candidate & sponsor come together to decide that. Discernment meetings are generally held twice a year (Christmas and Easter).

The issue is that one could be ready for Baptism, but not ready for Confirmation.

I just feel that there’s a difference between what you need to understand prior to Baptism and prior to Confirmation. With cradle Catholics the Church understands that as well because they separate the two, not allowing children to partake in certain sacraments.

I just feel we do people a disservice by withholding Baptism until they’re also ready for Confirmation. I mean, what if someone died during the year(s) it took them to be ready for Confirmation, and because they’re an adult they weren’t baptized?

Also, I know people that have chosen to get Baptized in a Christian denomination, then they’ll enter RCIA as a candidate and continue the process to Confirmation.

I’m going to go back and reread the prior posts…maybe there’s something I’m just not “getting.” …which I can’t say it altogether unlikely. :slight_smile:


The Sacrament of Confirmation (aka Chrismation) conveys the Grace of the Holy Spirit and is not actually a profession of faith. Baptism and confirmation were originally done at the same time. This was the practice of the early Church.

The West had the bishop as the ordinary minister of confirmation. This meant that someone could not be confirmed until the bishop visited. Over a thousand years after Christ’s birth, the West started only confirming teenagers.

The East had the priest as the ordinary minister of confirmation (since bishops cannot be present at every baptism). This meant that someone could would be confirmed immediately after baptism.

There is nothing in tradition that says that you must know a certain amount of information before confirmation. There is no such thing as being ready for baptism but not confirmation. A Roman Catholic priest is supposed to confirm an infant in emergency situations in the West. An Eastern Catholic priest is supposed to confirm infants immediately after baptism.

Pope St Leo the Great even speaks about infants receiving Communion in one of his letters. Things have changed over time. Confirmation is not for people who have learned more things since baptism; it is for all baptized people. :slight_smile:


But Confirmation is a separate Sacrament, right?


It is a separate Sacrament that in the early Church came immediately after baptism. It still come immediately after baptism in the Eastern Catholic Churches and later in one’s teens in the Western Church. The Western Church confirms infants in emergency situations where they probably won’t survive.

The Western name, Confirmation, is misleading because it is associated with only “confirming one’s faith,” by many. It is a Sacrament and provides Grace just like the Eucharist and other Sacraments.

Doctor of the Church, St Cyril of Jerusalem speaks on Confirmation (aka Chrismation):
3. But beware of supposing this to be plain ointment. For as the Bread of the Eucharist, after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is mere bread no longer , but the Body of Christ, so also this holy ointment is no more simple ointment, nor (so to say) common, after invocation, but it is Christ’s gift of grace, and, by the advent of the Holy Ghost, is made fit to impart His Divine Nature. Which ointment is symbolically applied to your forehead and your other senses ; and while your body is anointed with the visible ointment, your soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit.


  1. Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, you are called Christians, verifying the name also by your new birth. For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, you had properly no right to this title, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians.



I’ve gone back and reread the posts…there’s still something I’m missing. I’ll have to discuss with my husband–sometimes I can form my thoughts better talking out loud.

I wonder if the issue is because infants seemed to get baptized so easily while with adults it’s the opposite. Like I mentioned before, I know of several people who have had their children baptized as infants even though they don’t attend mass.

Thanks for the responses! Very much appreciated…I’m going to ponder this over the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!


In that case, they should not have had them baptized.

closed #16

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