Catholicism for Dummies?

I'm an aspiring writer (who will probably always remain in the "aspiring" category) and am currently working on a piece of short fiction. In it, one of my characters converts to Catholicism. Problem for me is, not being Catholic myself, I have no idea what this involves. Can you help me with some information?

I really don't know enough to ask specific questions. I'm sure that converting to Catholicism is a fairly involved process, not just a matter of raising your right hand and taking an oath or signing a document. How is it initiated? What must a person learn? How is he taught it? Who teaches him? How long does it take? Does conversion culminate in a "graduation" of sorts?

I corresonded briefly with a young woman who was in the process of converting, but she really couldn't shed much light on it for me. Her language was very non-secular and specific to the Catholic faith, and I had a hard time figuring out what she was trying to explain to me.

Please pardon my ignorance, but I really want to be technically accurate in my writing. If my inquiry is too broad to be addressed via email, maybe you could refer me to some literature explaining the logistics in basic terms. Not to be flippant about it, but is there a "Catholicism for Dummies" book or website that could clear things up for me?

Thank you for your help, and best wishes for the new year.

Daniel Harris


Dear Daniel,

Your idea of a "Catholicism for Dummies" website is a good one. I kind of had that idea when I started the Simple Catholicism website, but I think it takes a better mind than my own to really do it. Daniel, have you tried a search for RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults)? No doubt there are sites which could give a more complete answer, but in brief: the process is usually one a week for about 9 months starting in September. It is taught by a priest, a trained catechist with the help of others, especially the sponsors ("godparents") of the candidates. There are various rites & exorcisms along the way, but the culminating moment is the Easter Vigil which includes a profession of faith, baptism itself and the post baptismal anointing of confirmation. For someone already baptized in another Christian faith, he would make a confession of sins to a priest and profession of faith & confirmation which also usually happens at the Easter Vigil (the evening before Easter Sunday which this year is April 23).

Good luck and if you have further questions, do write.

Fr. Phil Bloom

RCIA at Holy Family, Seattle