The Celebration of the Seven Sacraments is a vital aspect of Catholic Parish Life. We know the sacraments were instituted by Christ as visible manifestations of the presence of God’s grace in our lives. As we act on our faith the Sacraments become pivotal points in our lives and guide us in our spiritual journey to celebrate God’s love.
The word sacrament comes from the Latin word sacrare which means “to dedicate.” Thus, a sacrament is a rite which not only signifies some specific grace, but which produces that grace in the souls of the person to whom it is administered.
What is grace? It is that which makes us fulfill our mission as children of God. It is not a state of being. It is a power that comes from God and regenerates and nourishes. It is the energy that feeds the growth of the believing spirit of people.
Each sacrament has an inward and outward expression. The outward, for example, in baptism, is the water. This symbolizes the rebirth and cleansing of the soul of the child, which is inward. Although everything which is in and of the Church is sacramental, there are seven formal sacraments which correspond to the different stages and situations of a person’s life.
The Seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church are generally grouped into three categories:
- Sacraments of Initiation. Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist welcome us into the Church. Baptism means a new birth in which we share in a new life that frees us from original sin. The celebration of Confirmation confirms this new life through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Eucharist strengthens our union with Christ and one another, and nourishes us spiritually with Jesus’ Body and Blood .
- Sacraments of Healing. Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are known as Sacraments of Healing. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation we experience God’s loving forgiveness. We are reunited with God and reconciled with our brothers and sisters in the Church. When members of the Church are ill, the Church prays that they may be healed and their faith strengthened in the Anointing of the Sick.
- Sacraments of Service. Marriage and Holy Orders are the two Sacraments of Service or Vocation. Matrimony celebrates the union of a man and woman where the community is a witness to their vows. Holy Orders celebrate the ordaining of bishops, priests and deacons who serve as God’s ministers to our community.