7 Sacraments in the Catholic Church, an easy to approach Explanation

What are the sacraments in the Catholic Church? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a Sacrament as an efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us (#1131). That is a packed definition to take in, so let’s try and simplify things for everyone – Catholic or not. There are seven Sacraments, which fit into the three categories of Christian Initiation, Sacraments of Healing, and Sacraments of Commitment or Service:

Christian Initiation

  1. Baptism
  2. Confirmation
  3. Eucharist (Holy Communion)

Sacraments of Healing

  1. Confession (sometimes called Reconciliation)
  2. Anointing of the Sick (commonly referred to as the Last Rights)

Sacraments of Commitment or Service

  1. Matrimony
  2. Holy Orders
sacraments in the Catholic Church
Seven Sacraments Altarpiece (detail), WEYDEN, Rogier van der, 1445-50, Oil on oak panel, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

What are the effects of sacraments in the Catholic Church?

The first thing you will notice about the sacraments in the Catholic Church is that they touch all parts of our lives. From birth to strengthening and growth to healing and death, they are all-encompassing. Its all there, every part of it. Next, there is a certain resemblance between the stages of spiritual life and the natural cycle of life. That is to say, the spiritual life can be patterned on the natural one.

What is the most important sacrament in the Catholic Church?

While no sacrament is more important than another, the Eucharist,among these seven Sacraments, holds a special place. It is said to be the Sacrament of Sacraments, as the other six points to it as their goal.

In its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council list three purposes for the Sacraments in the Catholic Church:

  • to sanctify men
  • to build up the body of Christ
  • to give worship to God

The Sacraments also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects, they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called ‘sacraments of faith.’ They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them disposes the faithful most effectively to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.

Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church 2

Seven Sacraments Altarpiece, WEYDEN, Rogier van der, 1445-50, Oil on oak panel, 200 x 97 cm (central panel), 119 x 63 cm (side panel, each), Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

The Sacraments in the Catholic Church sanctify those who receive them by bestowing two types of grace: Sanctifying grace and Sacramental grace. By Sanctifying grace, we receive a sharing in the life of God Himself. Sacramental grace is meant to give us extra help to complete the purpose of the sacrament.

Seven Sacraments in the Catholic ChurchParticular Sacramental Grace
BaptismHelps us to live as children of God, makes it easier for us to believe in God and to act accordingly, and lessens our inclinations to evil. Learn More
ConfirmationGives us strength to profess our faith even under difficulties and persecutions and to give good example to others. Learn More
EucharistNourishes our love of God and one another and helps to overcome our natural self-love, or selfishness. Learn More
PenanceHelps to cure the deeper inclinations to evil that actual sins have put in our soul and makes it easier for us to keep out of sin in the future. Learn More
Anointing of the SickHelps us to accept sickness as a purifying cross sent by God and even to accept death willingly from His hands whenever He chooses to send it. Learn More
Holy OrdersHelps a priest to fulfill his sacred duties and to be a good priest. Learn More
MatrimonyHelps married people to bear which each other’s defects and to fulfill the duties of their state, chiefly bringing children into the world and rearing them for God. Learn More

When we originally asked what are sacraments in the Catholic Church, we answered that they were “visible sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.“ Let’s end our brief introduction to the sacraments by looking at those three areas.

Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church 3
Seven Sacraments – Extreme Unction I (1637-1640) Nicolas Poussin
A Visible Sign

It means that something was done by the minister. For example, in Confession recites the Formula of Absolution out load while making the Sign of the Cross, saying “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is a visible sign.  

Instituted by Christ 

The seven sacraments were all started by our Lord Jesus Christ for the Church to offer His followers. This can be seen, for example, in the Gospel of Matthew: Go then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Mt 28:19)

To Give Grace

The free gift of God Himself as the guide force of our life and the choices we make in our baptized life of faith.

We hope you enjoyed this easy to approach guide to the seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Make sure to check out our other great content too!

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