Question 52:

How does one become a Christian?


Answer: From the time of the apostles, becoming a Christian has been accomplished by a journey and initiation in several stages. This journey can be made rapidly or slowly, but certain essential elements will always have to be present: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion. Since the beginning of the Church, adult Baptism is the common practice where the proclamation of the Gospel is still new. The Catechumenate (preparation for Baptism) therefore occupies an important place. This initiation into Christian faith and life should dispose the catechumen to receive the gift of God in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. The Catechumenate, or formation of catechumens, aims at bringing their conversion and faith to maturity, in response to the divine initiative and in union with an ecclesial community. The Catechumenate is to be "a formation in the whole Christian life . . . during which the disciples will be joined to Christ their teacher. The catechumens should be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and the practice of the evangelical virtues, and they should be introduced into the life of faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God by successive sacred rites." Catechumens "are already joined to the Church, they are already of the household of Christ, and are quite frequently already living a life of faith, hope, and charity." "With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces them as her own." (CCC 1229, 1247-1249).

As the catechism of the Catholic Church explains, a person becomes a Christian through the celebration of baptism. During baptism, the believer is baptized with water in the name of the triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is preceded by a time and a process called the Catechumenate. The Catechumenate is the time of preparation for baptism. The duration of the Catechumenate can vary depending on the candidate. It can also take a rather long time. During the Catechumenate, the baptism candidate must especially improve his knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ and His message. He also needs to familiarize himself with the Christian faith and life within that faith, in order to learn to lead his life solely focused on the teachings and the example of Christ. This includes especially the learning of and familiarization with the basic Christian articles of faith. The believer shall lead a life consciously based on the principles of the faith, and honor God not only in prayer and worship in church, but also in all aspects of daily life, serve Him and proclaim Him, in word and in action.

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