The Church’s Sacraments are privileged encounters with Christ. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body the Church -- "powers that come forth" from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving (CCC 1116). The Catholic Church identifies seven sacraments corresponding to the seven stages of human development, all instituted by Christ:
- Holy Orders
- Anointing of the Sick
Baptism makes one a member of the Body of Christ, and incorporates one into the Church, sharing in her mission (CCC 1267 – 1270). The principal effects of Baptism are purification from sins and regeneration (new birth) in the Holy Spirit. Baptism represents the first stage of initiation into the Church.
The Sacrament of Confirmation increases and deepens baptismal grace and corresponds to and draws upon the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost. This Sacrament equips us to undertake the mission of the Church. Confirmation represents the second sacramental step of initiation into the Catholic Church.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is intended to provide healing for the soul as well as the regaining of God’s grace lost by sin. In the celebration of this Sacrament the Church provides the opportunity for individuals to be reconciled to God and the Church through confessing sins committed after baptism and having them absolved by the priest who acts in the name of Christ and for the Church.
Eucharist refers principally to the Body and Blood of the Lord. Originating from the ancient Greek and meaning “thanksgiving,” Eucharist also refers to the celebration of the “Mass” (from the Latin, mittere, “to send forth”) which Catholics hold as central to their identity. For Catholics, Jesus’ ultimate self-giving sacrificial act of Love was initiated at the Last Supper and culminated in his Resurrection. The celebration of the Eucharist is an entering-into this eternal and saving event – God’s presence is realized through the action of the Holy Spirit. As Catholics we hold that the Eucharist effects a transformation, imparting God’s grace to those partaking in order for them to go forth to be his healing and life-giving presence in the world. Participation in the Eucharist is also the mark of full initiation into the Catholic Church.
In the Catholic Church, there are three Holy Orders: Bishop, Priest, and Deacon. Authority to shepherd souls in community emanates from Christ who instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper, the same event witnessing the institution of the Eucharist. Holy Orders is for the purpose of serving the spiritual needs of the Church: teaching, divine worship, and pastoral governance. For Catholics the Sacrament of Holy Orders as with other Sacraments confers a permanent character. In this case the priest receives from Christ the gift to act in the person of Christ, conferring his saving and healing presence.
Marriage, also called matrimony, is the covenant “by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership for the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (CCC1601). The nature of this Sacrament is that it is a covenant requiring that the two participants be one man and one woman, that they be free to marry, that they willingly and knowingly enter into a valid marriage contract, and that they validly execute the performance of the contract.
The anointing of the sick is administered to bring spiritual and/or physical strength during an illness, especially near the time of death.
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