Sacraments are central for Catholics. They help us meet the incarnate Jesus, who comes to us through cleansing water and invigorating oil to welcome us, life-giving bread and wine that become Christ’s Body and Blood, a hand outstretched in forgiveness, vows lovingly exchanged in marriage, a hand designating someone for ordained service and oil to strengthen the sick and comfort the dying.
The Latin word sacramentum means “a sign of the sacred.” The sacraments are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant and important for Christians. They are special occasions for experiencing God’s saving presence.
In the Church, there are seven Sacraments. These are Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), Reconciliation (Penance/Confession), Eucharist, Marriage (Matrimony), Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (CCC 1131). All seven sacraments were instituted by Christ and were entrusted to the Church to be celebrated in faith within and for the community of believers. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work. It is Jesus who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The rituals and prayers by which a sacrament is celebrated serve to express visibly what God is doing invisibly. The Church affirms that for believers the Sacraments are necessary for salvation (CCC 1129).
In these sacraments children receive God’s grace as they journey in faith with their family and parish community.
Sacraments of Christian Initiation
Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are considered Sacraments of Christian Initiation which lay the foundations of Christian life. These three sacraments are joyful sacraments of welcome whereby the community of the Church reaches out and embraces new members by the outpouring of God’s grace.
Sacraments of Service
Marriage and Holy Orders are the Sacraments of Service (Vocation). Both sacraments enable individuals to direct their lives in a sacramental way for the salvation of others. Through service to others, they build up the Body of Christ. They are themselves being saved in the process, by their participation in the saving mission of Christ.
Sacraments of Healing
Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick are the Sacraments of Healing. These two sacraments are the Church’s response to our need for healing — both physical and spiritual. They continue Jesus’s work of restoring health and bringing salvation to the broken, the vulnerable, the sick, and the dying. Both sacraments are points of contact between us and Jesus, part of the legacy of his mission: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The Church inherited Jesus’s concern and through these sacraments continues what he did. In Reconciliation and The Anointing of the Sick we experience Jesus’s healing touch.