The differences between Catholics and Protestants are historical. This branch of Christianity is known as “Protestants” because they sorted to reform perceived discrepancies, errors, and abuses in the Catholic Church starting in the 16th century. Christians, however, cross from one side to the other time. So, how do Protestants convert to Catholicism?
Protestants converting to Catholicism must undergo a process called “The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults” (RCIA). This is the standard means by which the Catholic Church welcomes new adult members. The process involves an extended period of conversion during which the person intending to join the Church is expected to follow specific steps as they get initiated into Catholicism.
So, why do Protestants convert to Catholicism? How long does it take a Protestant to convert to Catholicism? How can a Protestant convert to Catholicism? Keep reading to find answers to these questions.
Why do Protestants convert to Catholicism?
There are multiple reasons cited as to why people decide to “convert” to Catholicism. The motivations seem to range from matters of ceremony to doctrinal convictions and include:
- Pageantry and aesthetics: Many people speak of being moved by the design of Catholic Church systems, incense, the beauty of rituals, the mystery, solemnity, drama, clergy vestments, the church order, the sense of spirituality, religious symbolism, and so on.
- Need for authority: In a precarious and irrational age, the appeal of papal authority, as opposed to theological splinter groups in Protestantism, seems to offer a consistency in which their hearts can find rest. According to them, there is a significant need for one authoritative voice that can interpret and apply God’s Word uniformly under the direction of the Holy Spirit and by church tradition.
- Denominations and lack of unity: Many people are said to dislike the divisions, and lack of unity in Protestantism, which they believe are a direct result of the diverse theological views prevalent in the non-Catholic world. They are irked by the apparent conflict and what they perceive to be a refusal to take Jesus’ prayer seriously in John 17:21, desiring that we all be one.
- History and the true Church: Some argue that the Protestant Reformation was a mutiny and that the resultant beliefs deviated from the stream of the true Church. It is argued that converting to Catholicism can fulfill their desire to get things back in order and become immersed in tradition.
- Doctrinal and theological reasons: Some are said to convert purely for theological reasons. They are reported to maintain that the Reformation, such as sola fide (which dwells on justification by grace), sola scriptura (where Scripture is taken to be the only authority), and other doctrines are incorrect. Many seem to have come to believe in a sacramental approach to God’s mechanism for dispensing grace. They hold that Protestantism fails to regard the incarnational tenet of Scripture. As one convert said, “I’m Catholic because I truly believe in the “real presence of Jesus” in the Eucharist.” “I interpret Christ’s words in John 6:53–56 literally.”
- Social: Many people are said to have turned to Rome because of society’s growing secularisation and the evangelical Church’s diminishing influence. They seem to find in the Catholic Church a stabilizing anchor and a unified front in the fight against cultural paganization.
- Bad church experiences and personal reasons: Many converts are said to blame their conversion on oppressive and legalistic religious extremism.
How long does it take a Protestant to convert to Catholicism?
The Rite of Christian Initiation is said to take anywhere from a few weeks to a minimum of one liturgical year, depending on how well-formed and catechized you are in the faith and how comparable your Church is to Catholic theology. If, for example, you are Pentecostal, Evangelical, or someone who has been baptized but not catechized, you are likely to take a few months to get to communion. If, however, you have never been baptized and were not raised in the Catholic faith, it will probably take longer. The process leads up to baptism, confirmation, and then communion.
On the other hand, if you were raised Catholic and have received some catechesis but have not been baptized, it may be possible to be baptized in a shorter time, depending on the discussions you, your reverend, and the catechist director have. Also, if you have been attending the Catholic Church and are seeking full communion, your timeline will likely be shorter, ranging from several weeks to a few months. It is reported to be a quick and easy process for Old Catholics, Orthodox, and High-Church Anglicans.
How can a Protestant convert to Catholicism?
Once you have decided to be Catholic, you need to identify a church where you want to go through the initiation process. The RCIA involves four periods (stages) with three steps (rituals) in between that an unbaptized adult is supposed to follow. The stages are the pre-catechumenate; the catechumenate; purification and enlightenment; and mystagogy.
Period of Evangelization and Pre-catechumenate
This is meant to be a period of reflection and exposure to gospel values. There is no set length or structure. The “pre-catechumenate” process entails speaking with a priest or deacon and informing him of your desire to convert. It’s also a time for reflection and regular attendance at Mass. You should be able to get into one of the group classes (called RCIA) for people who want to convert. This is also supposed to provide you with a social network.
First Step: Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumens Order
This is the liturgical rite, typically held on an annual date or dates that mark the start of the catechumenate proper. The aspirant should express, and the Church should approve their intention to accept God’s call by following Christ’s path here.
Period of the Catechumenate
This is the time measured in terms of individual progress meant for nurturing and growing the catechumen’s belief and transition to God. A word celebration, exorcism, and blessing prayers are intended to aid the process. You should learn about the Church’s history, beliefs, and values and the correct order of Mass. Many classes require you to attend Mass only for a portion of the time, departing before communion, because you may not begin receiving the Eucharist until you enter the Church.
The majority of RCIA classes are held over a single liturgical year. That way, you can participate in all the feasts, fasts, and holidays. You will be assigned or allowed to select a sponsor during this time. Their role is to assist you and answer any questions you may have.
Second Step: Enrolment of Names
This is a liturgical rite, usually held during the First Sunday of Lent, in which the Church formally recognizes the catechumens’ readiness for the sacrament of initiation. The catechumens, now elect, express their desire to receive sacraments.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment
This is the period before the elect’s initiation. It is usually held during the Lenten season before the Easter Vigil to commemorate this initiation. This is the stage at which you will prepare for three public ceremonies: the Call to Continuing Conversion, the Rite of Election, and the Decisive Easter Vigil. It is a period that should entail intense reflection, centered on conversion, and highlighted by presentations, celebrating the scrutinies and rituals on Holy Saturday.
Third Step: Celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation
This is the liturgical rite, which is part of the Easter Vigil, through which the elect is initiated into the Church via Baptism, Confirmation, and Communion.
Period of Mystagogy
The process ends after the celebration of initiation, usually during the Easter season. The converts become entirely part of the church community. They can participate in relevant catechesis and the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. Mystagogy is a fancy term that means they can explore the new experience through the catechesis that ends around Pentecost.
Francis Beckwith, the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, is an example of a person who resigned from his position to become Catholic in 2007. Beckwith’s announcement shocked the evangelical community. Even some of Beckwith’s closest friends were surprised by his conversion.
Beckwith tells his story in his book, Return to Rome. In it, he states that a deep spiritual desire rather than theological reasoning drove him back to Rome. He does not provide insight into Rome’s fulfillment of his spiritual yearnings, instead focusing on doctrinal issues, which he admits were not the main factor in his choice to return to Rome.
- Why Protestants convert to Catholicism
- Another Protestant turns to Catholicism.
- Protestants vs. Catholics
- How to become a Catholic
- Conversion stories
- Journey back to Catholicism
- Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA)
- Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic, by Francis J. Beckwith
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.