What is a Sacrament anyway?

The Baltimore Catechism defines a sacrament as an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. In the Catholic Church, we believe there are seven of these sacraments. Each of them is spoken of in Church Tradition as well as having a firm foundation in Sacred Scripture. They are:

  1. Baptism
  2. Confirmation
  3. The Eucharist (Holy Communion)
  4. Marriage
  5. Holy Orders
  6. Anointing of the Sick
  7. Reconciliation

A sacrament then is the ordinary means by which God has established for His grace to enter into the world. This is what the Church means when it says they are necessary for salvation. We believe this because a Sacrament is an encounter with Jesus Christ Himself. In each of these rituals, the person doing the work is the Holy Spirit. It is God who forgives sins, joins together in Matrimony, heals the sick, and so forth.

There are also three categories that Sacraments are often broken down into.

The Sacraments of Initiation

It is through these three Sacraments that Christians are initiated into the fullness of life, infused with the Holy Spirit, and strengthened with Christ's presence to go forth proclaiming the Gospel as His Disciples.

The Sacraments of Healing

Through these Sacraments, physical and spiritual ailments are healed. They also help to reconcile the person who is suffering back to the Body of Christ, the Church. In the case of those dying, it strengthens them for the journey, preparing them spiritually and physically for the end of life on this earth and the beginning of their life in the next.

The Sacraments of Service

In these two Sacraments, we find the beauty of who Christ is being expressed in the relationship. For those who receive Holy Orders are in service to the body fo Christ, married to the Church. Their life is spent serving and providing for the Christian community as their family, as their children. For those who discern the vocation of Marriage, their life is spent in service to their spouse. It is through Marriage that we find society replenishing itself, young men and women growing into responsible adults, and the full expression of who God is as a trinity. Family.

Click any of the Sacrament Names above to learn more about them.