Sacraments of the Catholic Church (Overview)
St. Augustine left us with this definition of sacrament: Sacraments are visible signs of an invisible grace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the sacraments of the Church were instituted by Jesus Christ and are “powers that come forth from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant.”
Within the Roman Catholic tradition of Christianity there are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The first three, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are initiation sacraments – they are the sacraments that bring us into the Church. Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are the healing sacraments and Holy Orders and Matrimony are sacraments of service.
Each of the sacraments take as their signs the ordinary symbols of life – “bread, wine, water, oil, touch, words and gestures” – and point us toward the extraordinary experience of God’s presence in our world and in our lives. Sacraments lead us to look for the holy in the ordinary. They provide a “way of encountering the Risen Christ and of receiving the particular grace that the sacraments symbolize, be that of initiating, empowering, sustaining, forgiving, healing, serving or bonding.”
Catholics believe that the grace of God is present in a particular way in each of the sacraments. In order to receive this grace, however, we must be open to it. “The effectiveness of a sacrament depends both on the action of the Spirit and on the response of the person and community celebrating it.”
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- What Makes Us Catholic by Thomas H. Groome