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Questions often asked by those considering entering the Catholic Church, or those desiring to return to the Church:

What does it mean to be a Catholic?

How do I become Catholic?

How do I live as a Catholic?

Special Circumstances:

I’m divorced, can I be Catholic?

What if I remarried?

I’ve had an abortion, can I be Catholic?

What does it mean to be a Catholic?

To be a Catholic means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI wrote that being a Catholic is in essence an “encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” In other words, the Faith impacts every part of a Catholic’s life.

Consider a man who falls in love with a woman and she with him. He has a decisive “encounter” with this woman, and because of this encounter, his whole life will change. Instead of living strictly for himself and his needs, now his life is directed towards another. His choices regarding a career, family, recreation and housing all are impacted by his relationship with his beloved. Likewise, when someone has a decisive encounter with Jesus Christ and decides to live as a Catholic, every aspect of his life is affected. No longer does the Catholic live for himself– he lives for Jesus Christ.

In addition being a Catholic means being part of a family. The Catholic Church is not simply a social organization of like-minded people– it is the family of God. As with any family, membership confers certain privileges and responsibilities (see “How do I live as a Catholic?” below).


How do I become Catholic?

Every Catholic is a member of a parish, the local church where the sacraments are celebrated, the Word of God is proclaimed and the greater community is served. Therefore, to become a Catholic, the first thing to do is to contact your local parish. Most likely, you will meet with the pastor or one of his associates so that he may assess your interest and explain in detail what you need to do to become Catholic.

In most cases, you will be asked to go through the Rite of Initiation for Adults (RCIA). This might sound intimidating, but it is simply the process by which you can learn more about the Catholic Church and follow the necessary steps for becoming Catholic. This will usually culminate in your being received as a full member of the Church at the Easter Vigil.

Note that you are welcome to attend RCIA classes even if you are not sure whether you want to become Catholic. These classes can be a great way to learn more about the Catholic Faith and pray for God’s guidance in your own spiritual pilgrimage.

If you are not sure who to contact first, contact us! You are welcome to call or email the Office of Evangelization for the Diocese of Venice at 941-486-4740 or evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help direct you on the right path.


How do I live as a Catholic?

It is important to remember that Catholicism is not a label that we just wear at Mass on Sunday– it is a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. This encounter, if it is truly authentic, will lead us to live in ways that honor and please God. Everyone will follow Christ in a personal, unique way, but there are a few principles that should be followed by every Catholic:

1) Live a Sacramental Life. Christ gave us the sacraments as opportunities for intimate encounters with him throughout our lives. We must regularly partake of them to fortify our relationship with him. Practically, this means being baptized, going to Mass every Sunday (and on weekdays if our schedule permits) and going to the Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation) regularly (such as once a month).

The sacraments are not just for Sunday mornings, but to help us in our daily lives. One sacrament that especially is given to us for this reason is the Sacrament of Matrimony (marriage). So, it is important that you marry in the Catholic Church. If you are already married, having your marriage blessed by the Church will enable you to receive the graces of the sacrament.

2) Live the Beatitudes. Jesus was not just any ordinary moral teacher or wise philosopher. He preached a radical way of life, one that is often contrary to the wisdom of the prevailing culture, but that brings contentment and joy to those who follow it. The core of his teachings can be found in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) where Christ tells us, among other things, to be “poor in spirit,” “meek,” “pure of heart” and to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” It takes a lifetime to truly embrace this type of living, but every Catholic should work and pray every day to infuse these beatitudes into his life.

3) Follow the Commandments. When we decide to become a follower of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church, we freely agree to live by the commandments that Jesus gave us. Far from being limitations on our freedom, these commandments offer us a roadmap for joy-filled living. Just as a couple agrees to certain “restrictions” when they marry, Christians embrace a particular way of living in order to be free to love God fully. The restrictions on married persons are a vital means for spouses to show their faithful love towards one another. The same is true of the commandments Christ has given us.

4) Serve Others. An essential element of being a follower of Jesus Christ is the abandonment of self-centeredness. Jesus said that when we serve those who are lowly in this world – the poor, the oppressed, the prisoner – we are really serving him. We want to be like Christ, who gave his whole life for us, and so we should be willing to give of our time and resources to serve those less fortunate than ourselves. This service to others also includes sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ, for we do not only want to help others materially, but also spiritually.

Finally, every Catholic should own a Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you live in the Diocese of Venice and would like a free copy of these books, please contact the Office of Evangelization at 941-486-4740 or evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org. No obligation on your part is implied.

 


Special Circumstances


I’m divorced, can I be Catholic?

Yes! The Catholic Church teaches that divorce is a grave offence against the natural law, and that a marriage is intended to last until the death of one spouse. However, the Church is not a place for the perfect, but a hospital for sinners. If the Church only allowed those who were “pure” through its doors, it would be empty! Therefore, if you have been divorced and have not remarried, you may become Catholic and receive Communion like any other Catholic.


What if I remarried?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery’ the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists.” It is possible that a previous marriage was not valid in the eyes of the Church, and therefore can be annulled. If you are divorced and remarried and wish to become Catholic, please visit your local Catholic parish and speak with the priest.

Know that the Church welcomes you with open arms and desires for you to be reconciled to Christ – please do not hesitate to contact your parish no matter your life circumstances.


I’ve had an abortion, can I be Catholic?

Absolutely. Scripture says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); in other words, there is no one who can claim to have no sins in his past. The Church ardently desires that you find healing after your abortion, and Jesus is the great physician who can take away your pain and regret. The Catholic Church exists to reconcile people to Christ, and those who have had abortions are no exception to that mission – you too may find forgiveness in Sacramental Confession. Know also that any sins that you confess in the Sacrament of Reconciliation will remain absolutely private, bound by the seal of confession.

You might also consider contacting Project Rachael (http://hopeafterabortion.com/), a ministry dedicated to bringing healing to those harmed by abortion.

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