How to Obtain Eternal Life
Becoming a Christian According to the Bible
And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. (Acts 16:30-34)Becoming a Christian According to Roman Catholicism
Becoming Catholic is one of life’s most profound and joyous experiences. Some are blessed enough to receive this great gift while they are infants, and, over time, they recognize the enormous grace that has been bestowed on them. Others enter the Catholic fold when they are older children or adults. This tract examines the joyful process by which one becomes a Catholic.
A person is brought into full communion with the Catholic Church through reception of the three sacraments of Christian initiation—baptism, confirmation, and the holy Eucharist—but the process by which one becomes a Catholic can take different forms.
A person who is baptized in the Catholic Church becomes a Catholic at that moment. One’s initiation is deepened by confirmation and the Eucharist, but one becomes a Catholic at baptism. This is true for children who are baptized Catholic (and receive the other two sacraments later) and for adults who are baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist at the same time.
Those who have been validly baptized outside the Church become Catholics by making a profession of the Catholic faith and being formally received into the Church. This is normally followed immediately by confirmation and the Eucharist.
Before a person is ready to be received into the Church, whether by baptism or by profession of faith, preparation is necessary. The amount and form of this preparation depends on the individual’s circumstance. The most basic division in the kind of preparation needed is between those who are unbaptized and those who have already become Christian through baptism in another church.
For adults and children who have reached the age of reason (age seven), entrance into the Church is governed by the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), sometimes called the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults (OCIA).
Preparation for reception into the Church begins with the inquiry stage, in which the unbaptized person begins to learn about the Catholic faith and begins to decide whether to embrace it.
The first formal step to Catholicism begins with the rite of reception into the order of catechumens, in which the unbaptized express their desire and intention to become Christians. "Catechumen" is a term the early Christians used to refer to those preparing to be baptized and become Christians.
The period of the catechumenate varies depending on how much the catechumen has learned and how ready he feels to take the step of becoming a Christian. However, the catechumenate often lasts less than a year.
The catechumenate’s purpose is to provide the catechumens with a thorough background in Christian teaching. "A thoroughly comprehensive catechesis on the truths of Catholic doctrine and moral life, aided by approved catechetical texts, is to be provided during the period of the catechumenate" (U.S. Conference of Bishops, National Statutes for the Catechumenate, Nov. 11, 1986). The catechumenate also is intended to give the catechumens the opportunity to reflect upon and become firm in their desire to become Catholic, and to show that they are ready to take this serious and joyful step (cf. Luke 14:27–33; 2 Pet. 2:20–22).
The second formal step is taken with the rite of election, in which the catechumens’ names are written in a book of those who will receive the sacraments of initiation. At the rite of election, the catechumen again expresses the desire and intention to become a Christian, and the Church judges that the catechumen is ready to take this step. Normally, the rite of election occurs on the first Sunday of Lent, the forty-day period of preparation for Easter.
After the rite of election, the candidates undergo a period of more intense reflection, purification, and enlightenment, in which they deepen their commitment to repentance and conversion. During this period the catechumens, now known as the elect, participate in several further rituals.
The three chief rituals, known as scrutinies, are normally celebrated at Mass on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. The scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance. They are meant to bring out the qualities of the catechumen’s soul, to heal those qualities which are weak or sinful, and to strengthen those that are positive and good.
During this period, the catechumens are formally presented with the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, which they will recite on the night they are initiated.
The initiation itself usually occurs on the Easter Vigil, the evening before Easter Day. That evening a special Mass is celebrated at which the catechumens are baptized, then given confirmation, and finally receive the holy Eucharist. At this point the catechumens become Catholics and are received into full communion with the Church.
Ideally the bishop oversees the Easter Vigil service and confers confirmation upon the catechumens, but often—due to large distances or numbers of catechumens—a local parish priest will perform the rites.
The final state of Christian initiation is known as mystagogy, in which the new Christians are strengthened in the faith by further instruction and become more deeply rooted in the local Catholic community. The period of mystagogy normally lasts throughout the Easter season (the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost Sunday).
For the first year of their life as Christians, those who have been received are known as neophytes or "new Christians.
Choose which gospel you will embrace, for they are clearly not the same. Lest anyone think I have posted some "extreme" example of Rome's gospel, you can read the imprimatur and nihil obstat that endorses it here.
It would be difficult to draw a sharper contrast between the beauty and simplicity of the biblical gospel and the putrid, death-inducing "gospel" of Rome. Let this be a lesson to all. Whenever you find yourself "enthralled" by the "majesty" of an "ancient" tradition, and tempted to become part of it, be assured that man-centered false gospels of this nature can be traced back to the time of the apostles themselves--as can the corpses of the men who decided to embrace those "gospels."