Why Is It So Hard To Join

I’m considering joining the Catholic Church. I’ve read several articles about what it takes to join, and was really motivated to talk to a priest about this. I just had a meeting with someone at the church closest to my house; he was not a priest, but this was the only person who would reply to my email. I told him I was ready to join; I would do it today. He told me that the RCIA program is what I needed. As I understand it, this would delay my entry into full communion with the church for almost a full year.

What?? Why is it so hard to join? Why in the world would Catholics want to keep people out until an appointed time in the future? You have the most blessed sacrament of all, and I make full accent to all the Catholic Church teaches, but I cannot receive any sacraments until the next scheduled boarding date? What is the purpose of this delay? What will happen if I die between now and then? Don’t I need these sacraments to receive Christ fully in my life? If these things can wait a year, then why would I need them at all?

I know it’s a lot of questions, but I’m a little put out. It’s like an employer who wants you to start a job, but you won’t be paid until some time next year; but please come anyway.

You do not simply Join into The Catholic Church as you would do a Gym,
you are received into it by the grace of God and through the sacraments,
to add to this you can just get baptised, RCIA is not a necessary involvement, although it does no doubt help.

This is a good question.

I was baptized as a baby, so I never went through RCIA. Moreover, in 8 years of Catholic grade school I learned essentially nothing about our faith.

So why does it takes all this intellectual assent as an adult? Why can’t they just train you like they would a cradle Catholic who knows little about the faith and is to be confirmed?

When I make up my mind to do something, I really want to do it. If it takes learning certain things or going through some hurdles, bring them on. But when you say that according to the calendar it will take X amount of time so just sit still and be patient, it’s hard for me to have patience when I get worked up about something to do with God.

I just joined the Secular Fransciscans as an “inquirer,” and it will take 27 months minimum in formation until I’ll be able to profess and I accept that. But nobody is withholding the Eucharist from me in the meantime; I am already in full Communion with the other wonderful people who are guiding me. :shrug:

Honestly I think Catholics should know more about their faith, but I don’t understand why we have this process for adults but not for babies. I guess it’s in the assumption that babies will be brought up Catholic by their parents? Personally I think that in general we tend to overemphasize “head knowledge” and seldom speak publicly about the mysticism that underlies our entire faith. Maybe one year I’ll be an RCIA sponsor like my son and wife were, and I’ll understand it. But until then, I share your puzzlement at the requirement (if there actually is a requirement and not just a “norm”) to spend a year.

I know some people are brought into the Church without a formal RCIA program (like Rich Mullins for example) but I don’t know under what circumstances that can be done. :shrug:


It may seem like a lot of trouble and a long time to become a Catholic but it is necessary so that you will enter the Church completely informed and ready to fully practice the faith. Being Catholic involves more than just going to Mass and all of it will become clear as you go through the instructions. Go to Mass, enjoy the celebration and participate in all of it except communion. Meet people, get involved and take the instructions of the RCIA seriously. The year will pass so quickly and before you know it you will come into the Church a full member. God bless this journey and welcome.

Blessed Theophilis (lover of God!),
I believe you are already well on your journey home. And your soul has heard enough for you to recognize Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
There is a Tradition:
Baptism of desire (Latin Baptismus Flaminis) is a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church explaining that those who desire baptism, but are not baptized with water through the Christian ritual because of death, nevertheless receive the fruits of Baptism if their grace of conversion included an internal act of perfect love and contrition by which their soul was cleansed of all sin. Hence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church observes, “For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament” (CCC 1259).
This should bring you “some” consolation, but know this… The Church is so deep, and so wide, and there is so much that it offers you. A truly GOOD RCIA class will enlighten you quite a bit, strengthen your resolve and faith that will last you your lifetime. In the meantime, of course, going to Mass, listening to Catholic Answers, reading your Catechism and Bible will also help. I know it’s difficult to find out that RCIA has ended at the same time that you are coming to faith. I’m thinking that the Lord is calling you into a period of patience and perserverence. If you ask Him for help, He will certainly strengthen you for this task. Perhaps a suggestion is to find out who the RCIA facilitator is and go to Mass with him/her. If you have questions or concerns, they should be able to help you a bit after Mass. They should already have the charism of charity and love to encourage and assist you.
My prayers are with you. I know this. For people who have gone through the whole RCIA process, I’ve yet to meet one who said it was too long. They’ve all recognized that there is so much MORE to know even after the 7 or eight month process! And personally, as a convert of 15 years, I also agree. I have SO much more to understand. I suppose most of that will come AFTER death, and not before.

Most people who have taken the easy way out (not attending RCIA regularly, not attending Mass on a weekly basis, etc) tend to become lukewarm and then cold, and eventually lose their faith. I say MOST, not all. Just an observation over the years.

Bless you and may you persevere.

Being a Catholic is not just going to Mass and receiving Sacraments. Catholicism is a guiding principle on how to live your life. A new convert needs to be nurtured and taught the Faith so they can make an informed decision on whether or not being a Catholic is right for them. If you truly believe that you want to become part of the Catholic Church; go to Mass each week, daily if you can and on Holy Day’s of Obligation. Talk to the local pastor, sign up and complete RCIA. This will give you the basis of the Catholic faith, and then it will be up to you to further your learning on the faith. Remember…Being Catholic is a way of life.

You’re looking at this the wrong way. RCIA won’t DELAY your entry. RCIA is the beginning of your entry into the Church. It’s the time when you learn what it means to be Catholic and are incorporated into the Catholic community. Professing your faith in the Church is the culmination of the process when you can honestly say, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

Look at it this way.

The Church wants you to know what you’re getting into. As KnightofSilence said, this isn’t like a gym membership where you can sign up today and quit tomorrow and basically come and go as you please. When you become Catholic, you take on some serious obligations in addition to being able to receive the grace of the sacraments. It would be irresponsible for the Church to place people under those obligations without them knowing what they are signing up for.

Alan brings up infant Baptism, which is a bit different. A baby doesn’t know what he/she is signing up for, but the parents and godparents vouch for the baby and they take on the obligation to make sure the baby is formed in the faith. With adults coming to the Church, they are not in this situation.

If you firmly believe you already know what you are signing up for, then try talking to the priest and seeing about other arrangements. I know several people who were received into the Church at other times of year. But note, this is the exception, not the rule. The norm is for those entering the Church to enter on the “Solemnity of Solemnities” – the Easter Vigil.

RCIA is a process of conversion, not just a program you go through so you can “graduate” and become Catholic. If your priest really wants you to go through the process, then I would encourage you to embrace that in all humility. Use this time to pray and discern and reflect. Come to a greater love and appreciation for all the Church has to offer.

You are in my prayers. Please pray for me, too.

In fact, canon law prohibits the baptism of a baby unless there is a strong assurance that the baby will be raised Catholic.

Personally I think that in general we tend to overemphasize “head knowledge” and seldom speak publicly about the mysticism that underlies our entire faith. Maybe one year I’ll be an RCIA sponsor like my son and wife were, and I’ll understand it. But until then, I share your puzzlement at the requirement (if there actually is a requirement and not just a “norm”) to spend a year.

I know some people are brought into the Church without a formal RCIA program (like Rich Mullins for example) but I don’t know under what circumstances that can be done. :shrug:


Around 10 years ago, I entered the Catholic church, but like yourself had to go through the RCIA program. At first I thought the very same thing you are saying, but when I got down to it I found it very informative and was so glad that the RCIA was offered. It is a way to grow in faith and when you finish the program you will most certainly want to know more, and become more involved.

I’m not sure if you have been baptized into the Christian faith by a triune church, but if not, you would definitely have to go through RCIA as a catechumen (a huge honor!).

I was in your position about 3 yrs ago and understand your confusion. Catholics don’t want to exclude anyone…but unlike other faith traditions, this process is a spiritual journey that takes a lot more time. The church wants to make sure you understand what we’re about. As a candidate or catechumen, you are considered a part of our community and should your life be in danger, of course, exceptions would be made. I hope your parish allows you to come up in the communion line to receive a blessing rather than the host. Our’s does and our guests know we are glad they joined us.

Don’t rush this…it is way too beautiful to rush through. Welcome!

Welcome to the Church :slight_smile:

The Church has always had a period of instruction before one may enter the Church fully. This is necessary for several theological reasons, but the point I want to make is that you *might *be able to find a priest or pastor who will instruct you privately and allow you to be received into the Church sooner. Ask nicely, without complaining about the current RCIA system, which is in place in part because we have a low number of priests in comparison to the population, and this means priests are really busy, sometimes doing the work of 2 or 3 priests.

Keep the priests in your prayers…

I really appreciate all the replies. Let me be clear: I view joining the Catholic Church exceedingly more significant in its actions and implications than joining a gym.

I was baptized in the name of the Trinity for the remission of my sins. I believe in God, that Jesus Christ is his son who died on the cross for the remission of my sins, and I firmly believe I must follow his way, whatever it is, and through whichever ecclesiastical community his true way is found within. I do not understand why I have to spend a certain amount of time determining if the Catholic Church is right for me. As I see it, Jesus Christ instituted His church among the Apostles and thier successors who hold all authority on earth as it is in heaven. I have no choice but to agree with the details regarding Christian living taught by the church; whatever they may be. As a believer, I’m obligated to follow; period. I don’t have the luxury of appraising the value and worth of the churches teachings, then see where they will fit into my life. My life must conform to the churches teachings simply because it is the Holy Spirit who is instructing me to do so. Christ instituted His church, and I must follow it; whatever it is, becuase God requires my obedience.

I agree that I’m being impatient, but look what’s inside: receiving Christ body, blood, soul, and divinity; teaching through the gudance of the Holy Spirit; purified conscience that comes from confession. I feel like I’m banging on the door to the church, tossing pebbles at the windows, and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Please, someone let me in,” only to see multitudes of people starring out the windows at me shaking their heads saying, “Poor soul. He doesn’t know the door only unlocks once a year.”

Another point of clarification: I don’t want to skip RCIA. I know I have much to learn. I strongly desire that knowledge. I’m just puzzled why I cannot receive the sacraments until next Easter. If these sacraments are required, then why shouldn’t I receive them today? If they are not required, then why do I need to receive them at all.

Or maybe what they’re saying is “Poor soul. He doesn’t see that we have a whole team of people holding open the door and inviting him in. The band is warmed up and ready to play as soon as he comes through the door. We have a wonderful dinner to serve. But he’s not interested in us at all. He just keeps looking at the dessert table as if that’s all there is.”

When you put it in protestant terms they are asking you to either go to a midweek prayer meeting or else a Sunday School class on Sundays.

I went through it myself last year finishing at Easter.

You will get farther with friendly in person conversations than email. Stop by the office, make an appointment to see the RCIA director or a priest. If its not immediate don’t be offended, priests are very busy.

They are required, but it’s because we assume you will have time to learn. If you were going to die tomorrow, I’m sure you would be given all the sacraments today, but you’re not. And if you do happen to die, God will recognize your desire for the sacraments.

Also, don’t think this is an unimportant thing. My sister, for example, when she was going through confirmation, didn’t quite grasp many of the doctrines of the Church, and later, when she was in college, decided she did not agree with some of them and joined the Reformed Church. While I am sure this will not happen to you, the Church needs to make sure you understand and agree with all its doctrines before it admits you - though, again, if their were extenuating circumstances, I imagine you could receive the sacraments immediately.

This is awesome! I wish more people understood this. But you do see, don’t you, that this also applies to the methods of entering the Church, right?

Call the parish office and set up an appointment with a priest. Don’t let them say he can’t see you–be flexible about when you’re available if you can. Maybe he can help.

And also, I would like to mention that the Easter Vigil is the most beautiful moment of the Church year (IMO). Entering the church then would be worth the wait.


It’s actually easier to join the Catholic Church than it was over 35 years ago, when I joined. I, too, thought I would just have to sign on the dotted line & be in. Instead, I had a FULL year of weekly instruction. I had to read several books & the priest instructing me quized me orally to make sure I really understood what I was reading. Tho he did lighten up on occasion & tell me his WWII stories. :smiley:

In the parish we recently left, RCIA starts in late September & meets just 3 times a month. Additional classes are skipped during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. Then everyone who made it to most of the classes is baptised/confirmed at Easter. No one really talks with the converts to see if they understand what the Church teaches. The last couple of priests were not involved in the process at all. I’m hoping the newly assigned priest will be more involved.

In the parish we are now in, it’s worse. There is no RCIA. Those who want to join get a few classes, and that’s it. We usually don’t see the new Catholic again. :frowning:

So you see, it’s really quite easy to become a Catholic. :frowning:

First, I encourage you in this journey. Good for you!!! I hope you come home!!

There are a few important things to remember. None of us, even cradle Catholics, were able to just receive the Sacraments without preparation. There is so much learning to be done! The second thing to remember is that by being present at the Mass, whether you can receive the Eucharist or not, you are absolutely physically in the full-bodied presence of Christ. Grace is given to you through the very presence alone. All are welcome, encouraged and invited to partake in this grace. Think of the woman in the crowd, surrounded by countless people, who believed so strongly that if she were merely to touch the cloak of Jesus that she would be healed. We are all that woman. The Mass absolutely offers you sacramental graces, even before you are able to fully receive.

Be encouraged by this! You are not shut out, you are not shunned. You are welcomed, encouraged, and accepted! But all must be prepared before receiving these Sacraments.

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