The liturgical life of the Catholic Church revolves around
the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the
Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick,
Matrimony, and Holy Orders.
The purpose of the sacraments is to make people holy, to
build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God; but being
signs, they also have a teaching function. They not only presuppose faith, but
by words and object, they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why
they are called "sacraments of faith." The sacraments 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 rightly,
and to practice charity.
Worship is integral to our lives as Christians. When we
engage in the prayer and ritual of the Church, we are formed as Church. Our
sacramental rites are of primary importance while we are gathered.
Baptism, the first and fundamental sacrament and the gate to
the other sacraments, is the purifying and sanctifying sacrament of rebirth. It
is the means by which its recipients are incorporated into the church in a
sacramental bond of unity.
By a signing with the gift of the Spirit, confirmation
enriches the baptized with the Holy Spirit, binding them more perfectly to the
Church, and strengthening them in their witness to Christ by word and deed and
in their work to bring to its fullness the Body of Christ. Confirmation is
conferred through anointing with chrism and the laying on of hands.
The Eucharist is the most august sacrament, in which Christ
Himself is contained, offered and received, and by which the Church constantly
lives and grows. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the death and
resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated
over the centuries, is the summit and source of all Christian life and worship;
it signifies and effects the unity of the people of God and achieves the
building up of the Body of Christ.
As children reach the age of reason, generally around age
seven, the Church extends to them an invitation to celebrate the sacrament of
Eucharist. The initiation into the Christian community that took place at
baptism is further extended by inviting children to enter fully into the heart
of Christian faith through participation in the Eucharist.
Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the "sacraments of Christian initiation," whose unity must be safeguarded. The sacrament of Confirmation closely associates the Christian with the anointing of Christ, whom "God annointed with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 10: 38).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."
PENANCE OR RECONCILIATION (CONFESSION)
Through penance, the faithful receive pardon through God's
mercy for the sins they have committed. At the same time, they are reconciled
with the Church community. The confession, or disclosure, of sins frees us and
facilitates our reconciliation with others.
ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Through the sacrament of anointing, Christ strengthens the
faithful who are afflicted by illness, providing them with the strongest means
of support. Jesus showed great concern for the bodily and spiritual welfare of
the sick and commanded His followers to do the same. The celebration of this
sacrament is an opportunity for the deepening of the faith of the community who
are able to witness the faith and devotion of those being anointed.
The Church has a rich tradition in its teaching on
sacramental marriage and covenantal union. The Old Testament authors write of
God making a covenant with the chosen people and promising them that they will
never be forsaken. The New Testament authors write of Jesus as the new covenant
and compare the relationship of Jesus with the Church to the relationship of a
husband and wife; Christ raised marriage to the level of a sacrament that
reveals the love and life of the Trinity. The matrimonial covenant, by
which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership for
the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses
and the procreation and education of offspring.
Holy Orders is the sacrament by which bishops, priests and
other ministers of the Church are ordained and receive the power and grace to
perform their sacred duties. The sacred rite by which orders are conferred is
called ordination. The apostles were ordained by Jesus at the Last Supper so
that others could share in His priesthood.
Information Courtesy: www.archmil.org