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The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church



The Latin word sacramentum means "a sign of the sacred." The seven Sacraments are outward signs that give the recipient God's grace (God's divine presence in our souls and helping us to do good and avoid evil). When we worthily receive them, they are special occasions for experiencing God's saving power. That's what theologians mean when they say that sacraments are at the same time signs and instruments of God's grace.

Anointing of the Sick: The old name for this sacrament was ‘extreme unction’. It was generally administered only at the point of death. Since the reforms of VaticanII it is now seen as a sacrament for the sick and is intended for healing. It offers God’s healing to those with serious physical illness, the elderly and frail, and those in need of inner healing. The occasional communal anointing of the sick can be a very moving experience and even when administered to one sick person, the other members of the family should be present if at all possible.

Baptism: Is the first sacrament of welcome into the Christian community. In the ceremony begins at the door - where people are normally welcomed into a home and a family. The priest spells out this significance when, at the door, he addresses the person by the newly chosen name and says ‘Mary (John or whatever) the Christian community welcomes you with great joy’. A whole richness of ceremony surrounds the sacrament. There is, for example, the reading of the Word of God, the anointing, the candle and white garment, the sign of one’s Christian dignity and the pouring of the water ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’.

Confirmation: In the early Church the sacraments of baptism and confirmation were seen as two moments in a single process of welcome into the Church. Confirmation highlights a special aspect of membership of the Church, namely that of being commissioned to take on responsibility for the Church’s task and to become actively involved in pursuing it Eucharist: At the Last Supper Jesus took bread and wine and said over them ‘This is my body given for you, my blood poured out for you, do this in memory of me’. Every time we come together for Mass we are fulfilling that request of Jesus. We listen to the Word of God, we pray that the Holy Spirit will change these gifts of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, we remember his death and resurrection and at the end we go to love and serve the Lord.

First Holy Communion is most often celebrated by children around the age of seven or eight, when they have reached the age of reason and are capable of participating in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. First Holy Communion is to be preceded by the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the continuation of Christ's priesthood, which He bestowed upon His Apostles; thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Sacrament of Holy Orders as "the sacrament of apostolic ministry."

Marriage: Marriage is a lifelong partnership, commitment, based in love, for the well-being of the spouses and for the purpose of having and rearing children. It is absolutely dependent on the free consent of the couple. The Second Vatican Council applies the expression ‘domestic Church’ to the Catholic family. It is in the family that the faith is first taught to children, and marriage represents the first school of Christian life.

Sacrament of Reconciliation: In the past it was called ‘Confession’ or the ‘Sacrament of Penance’. It is the sacrament by which, through the ministry of the Church, we are reconciled to God even when we have sinned gravely. Since the Vatican Council we now have three rites for this sacrament: Rite 1: this involves a one-to-one encounter with the priest with individual confession and absolution. Rite Two: A communal preparation and thanksgiving with individual absolution and very brief confession. Rite Three: communal preparation and thanksgiving with general absolution and no individual confession.