The Latin word sacramentum means “a sign of the sacred.” The seven sacraments are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant and important for Christians. They are special occasions for experiencing God’s saving presence. That’s what theologians mean when they say that sacraments are at the same time both signs and instruments of God’s grace.
The 7 Sacraments are:
Baptism, from the Greek word baptisma which means a “dipping” is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation. It is the sacrament in which by water and the power of the Holy Spirit a person is cleansed of all sin, including original sin, and experiences birth into the new life of Christ.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” – Matthew 28:19
The Sacrament of Baptism is the first step in a lifelong journey of commitment and discipleship. Whether we are baptized as infants or adults, Baptism is the Church’s way of celebrating and enacting the embrace of God.
The Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation (also sometimes referred to as Penance or Confession ) has three elements: conversion, confession, and celebration. In it we find God’s unconditional forgiveness; as a result, we are called to forgive others.
Reconciliation (or penance, or confession) is one of the two Sacraments of healing. It is the Sacrament in which sins committed after baptism are confessed after an examination of conscience and forgiven by a priest in the name of Christ.
“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” – John 20:23
The Sacrament of Penance is an experience of the gift of God’s boundless mercy. Not only does it free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are liberated to be forgivers. We obtain new insight into the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The Sacrament of Penance is God’s gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession, we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. “In him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). While all the Sacraments bring us an experience of the mercy that comes from Christ’s dying and rising, it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation that is the unique Sacrament of mercy.
The Sacrament of Eucharist is one of the three Sacraments of Initiation. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharista,which means “thankfulness.” Eucharist is the sacrament in which the true Body and Blood of Christ, who is truly and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine is received in holy Communion.
“Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” – Luke 22:19
Confirmation is a Catholic Sacrament of Christian commitment and a deepening of baptismal gifts. It is one of the three Sacraments of Initiation for Catholics. It is most often associated with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It is the third Sacrament of Initiation in the Roman Catholic Church. Confirmation is the Sacrament in which the baptized are strengthened by the Holy Spirit in order to bear witness to Christ and prepare to take on the role of a disciple.
“Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” – John 14:16
The Sacrament of Marriage, or Holy Matrimony, is a public sign that one gives oneself totally to this other person. It is also a public statement about God: the loving union of husband and wife speaks of family values and also God’s values.
It signifies the union and love that exist between Christ and the Church. It is a faithful covenant in which a man and a woman unite and form “one flesh.”
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” – Mark 10:6-9
Sacred Scripture begins with the creation and union of man and woman and ends with “the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7, 9). Scripture often refers to marriage, its origin and purpose, the meaning God gave to it, and its renewal in the covenant made by Jesus with his Church. Man and woman were created for each other.
By their marriage, the couple witnesses Christ’s spousal love for the Church. One of the Nuptial Blessings in the liturgical celebration of marriage refers to this in saying, “Father, you have made the union of man and wife so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and his Church.”
The Sacrament of Marriage is a covenant, which is more than a contract. Covenant always expresses a relationship between persons. The marriage covenant refers to the relationship between the husband and wife, a permanent union of persons capable of knowing and loving each other and God. The celebration of marriage is also a liturgical act, appropriately held in a public liturgy at church. Catholics are urged to celebrate their marriage within the Eucharistic Liturgy.
In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, or Ordination, the priest being ordained vows to lead other Catholics by bringing them the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), by proclaiming the Gospel, and by providing other means to holiness.
Annointing of the Sick
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, formerly known as Last Rites or Extreme Unction, is a ritual of healing appropriate not only for physical but also for mental and spiritual sickness.