Catholic Sacraments

The Sacraments of the Catholic Church are, the Church teaches, efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. ” Though not every individual has to receive every sacrament[->0], the Church affirms that, for believers as a whole, the sacraments are necessary for salvation, as the modes of grace divinely instituted by Christ[->1] Himself.
Through each of them Christ bestows that sacrament’s particular grace, such as incorporation into Christ and the Church, forgiveness of sins, or consecration for a particular service. The Church teaches that the effect of a sacrament comes by the very fact of being administered, regardless of the personal holiness of the minister administering it. However, a recipient’s own lack of proper disposition to receive the grace conveyed can block the effectiveness of the sacrament in that person.
The sacraments presuppose faith and through their words and ritual elements, nourish, strengthen and give expression to faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church[->2] lists the sacraments as follows: “The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism[->3], Confirmation[->4], Eucharist[->5], Penance[->6], Anointing of the Sick[->7], Holy Orders[->8], and Matrimony[->9]. ” Baptism[->10] is the first and basic sacrament of Christian initiation.

Baptism is usually conferred today by pouring water three times on the recipient’s head, while reciting the baptismal formula: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit[->11]. ” The ordinary minister of the sacrament is a bishop or priest, or a deacon. In case of necessity[->12], anyone intending to do what the Church does, even if that person is not a Christian, can baptize. The sacrament frees from original sin[->13] and all personal sins, and from the punishment ue to them. Baptism makes the person share in the Trinitarian life of God through “sanctifying grace[-;14]”, the grace of justification that incorporates the person into the body of Christ and his Church, also making the person a sharer in the priesthood of Christ. It imparts the theological virtues[->15]: faith[->16], hope[->17], and charity[->18] and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and marks the baptized person with a spiritual seal or character that indicates permanent belonging to Christ.
Baptism is the foundation of communion between all Christians. The many symbols of baptism include a white garment, symbolizing innocence and purity, a candle, symbolizing the Light of Christ, the Oil of Chrism, which is used to anoint the baby or candidate being baptized, and the water, which symbolizes cleansing and the washing away of sin. Confirmation is the second sacrament of Christian initiation. It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.
It is conferred by “the anointing[-;19] with Sacred Chrism[-;20], which is oil mixed with balsam and consecrated by the bishop, which is done by the laying on of the hand of the minister who pronounces the sacramental words proper to the rite. These words refer to a gift of the Holy Spirit[-;21] that marks the recipient as with a seal. Through the sacrament the grace given in baptism is strengthened and deepened.
Like baptism, confirmation may be received only once, and the recipient must be in a state of grace meaning free from any known unconfessed mortal sin[-;22] in order to receive its effects. The originating minister of the sacrament is a validly consecrated bishop[-;23]; if a priest confers the sacrament and in special cases, the link with the higher order is indicated by the use of oil blessed[-;24] by the bishop on Holy Thursday[-;25] itself or on a day close to it. In the East, which retains the ancient practice, the sacrament is administered by the parish priest immediately after baptism.
In the West, where administration is normally reserved for those who can understand its significance, it came to be postponed until the recipient’s early adulthood; but in view of the earlier age at which children are now admitted to reception of the Eucharist, it is more and more restored to the traditional order and administered before giving the third sacrament of Christian initiation. The Eucharist is the sacrament, the third of Christian initiation, completes Christian initiation by which Catholics partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus[->26] Christ and participate in his one sacrifice.
The first of these two aspects of the sacrament is also called Holy Communion. The bread which must be wheaten and wine which must be from grapes used in the Eucharistic rite are, in Catholic faith, transformed in all but appearance into the Body and Blood of Christ, a change that is called transubstantiation[->27]. That is, Catholics believe they are sacramentally, though not physically, eating and drinking the human flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Only a bishop[->28] or priest[->29] is enabled to be a minister of the Eucharist, acting in the person of Christ himself.
Deacons[->30] as well as priests are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and lay people may be authorized in limited circumstances to act as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The Eucharist is seen as “the source and summit” of Christian living, the high point of God’s sanctifying action on the faithful and of their worship of God, the point of contact between them and the liturgy of heaven. So important is it that participation in the Eucharistic celebration is seen as obligatory on every Sunday and holy day of obligation[-;31] and is recommended on other days.
Also recommended for those who participate in the Mass is reception, with the proper dispositions, of Holy Communion. This is seen as obligatory at least once a year, during Eastertide. The Sacrament of Penance is the first of two sacraments of healing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions in the following orders different names of the sacrament, calling it the sacrament of conversion, Penance, confession, forgiveness and Reconciliation. It is the sacrament of spiritual healing for a baptized person from the distancing from God resulting from sins committed.
If a man sins after baptism, he cannot have baptism as a remedy; Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration, cannot be given a second time. Reconciliation involves four elements: Contrition the Penitent’s sincere remorse for wrongdoing or sin, repentance, without which the rite has no effect; Confession to a Priest with the faculty to hear confessions while it may be spiritually helpful to confess to another, only a Priest has the power to administer the sacrament, Absolution by the Priest, and, Satisfaction or Penance.
Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm. Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must make satisfaction for or expiate his sins. This satisfaction is also called penance.
In early Christian centuries, this element of satisfaction was quite onerous and generally preceded absolution, but now it usually involves a simple task for the penitent to perform, to make some reparation and as a medicinal means of strengthening against further temptation. The priest is bound by the seal of confession[->32], which is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.
A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs an automatic excommunication whose lifting is reserved to the Holy See[->33]. In some dioceses, certain sins are reserved which means only certain confessors can absolve them. Some sins, such as violation of the sacramental seal, consecration of bishops without authorization by the Holy See, direct physical attacks on the Pope[->34], and intentional desecration of the Eucharist are reserved to the Holy See.
A special case-by-case faculty from the Sacred Penitentiary[->35] is normally required to absolve these sins. Anointing of the Sick[->36] is the second sacrament of healing. In this sacrament a priest anoints the sick with oil blessed specifically for that purpose. The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger by reason of illness or old age. A new illness or a worsening of health enables a person to receive the sacrament a further time.
When, in the Western Church, the sacrament was conferred only on those in immediate danger of death, it came to be known as Extreme Unction[->37], Final Anointing, administered as one of the Last Rites. The other Last Rites are Confession if the dying person is physically unable to confess, at least absolution, conditional on the existence of contrition, is given, and the Eucharist, which when administered to the dying is known as Viaticum[->38], a word whose original meaning in Latin[->39] was provision for a journey.
Holy Orders[->40] is the sacrament by which a man is made a bishop[->41], a priest[->42], or a deacon[->43], and thus dedicated to be an image of Christ[->44]. A bishop is the minister of this sacrament. Ordination as a bishop confers the fullness of the sacrament, making the bishop a member of the body of successors of the Apostles, and giving him the mission to teach, sanctify, and govern, along with the care of all the Churches.
Ordination as a priest configures the priest to Christ the Head of the Church and the one essential High Priest, and conferring on him the power, as the bishops’ assistant, to celebrate the sacraments and other liturgical acts, especially the Eucharist. Ordination as a deacon configures the deacon to Christ the Servant of All, placing him at the service of the bishop, especially in the Church’s exercising of Christian charity towards the poor and preaching of the word of God.
Aspirants to the priesthood are required by canon law[->45] to go through a seminary[->46] program that includes, as well as graduate level philosophical and theological studies, a formation program that includes spiritual direction[->47], retreats[->48], apostolate experience, etc. The course of studies in preparation for ordination as a permanent deacon is decided by the Episcopal conference[->49] concerned. Matrimony[->50], or Marriage, like Holy Orders, is a sacrament that consecrates for a particular mission in building up the Church, and that provides grace for accomplishing that mission.
This sacrament, seen as a sign of the love uniting Christ and the Church, establishes between the spouses a permanent and exclusive bond, sealed by God. Accordingly, a marriage between baptized[->51] people, validly entered into and consummated, cannot be dissolved. The sacrament confers on them the grace they need for attaining holiness in their married life and for responsible acceptance and upbringing of their children.
As a condition for validity, the sacrament is celebrated in the presence of the local Ordinary[->52] or Parish Priest[->53] or of a cleric delegated by them or in certain limited circumstances a lay person delegated by the diocesan Bishop with the approval of the Episcopal Conference[->54] and the permission of the Holy See[->55] and at least two other witnesses, though in the theological tradition of the Latin Church the ministers of the sacrament are the couple themselves.
For a valid marriage, a man and a woman must express their conscious and free consent to a definitive self-giving to the other, excluding none of the essential properties and aims of marriage. If one of the two is a non-Catholic Christian, their marriage is licit only if the permission of the competent authority of the Catholic Church is obtained. If one of the two is not a Christian, the competent authority’s dispensation is necessary for validity.

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