Living as a Catholic Catholic life The Sacraments The sacraments are God’s way of sharing his unconditional love with us at various stages of our lives. In all the sacraments we receive God’s grace by the Holy Spirit at ceremonies which themselves were instituted by Christ, and were given to the Church to be administered by deacons, priests and bishops. Through the celebration of the sacraments Christ is truly present in our lives and in turn we build up the body of Christ to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. The sacraments provide strength and nourishment to continue on our journey of faith. By definition a sacrament is ‘An outward sign of inward grace, ordained by Jesus Christ, by which grace is given to our souls.’ (A Catechism of Christian Doctrine 249) The Church celebrates seven sacraments, which are divided into three categories: • Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist• Healing – Penance & Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick• Service – Holy Orders, Matrimony Baptism Baptism is when we become part of God’s family — the family of the Church — hence we are called the children of God.It is defined by the Church as the door which gives access to the other sacraments (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213). In Baptism we are washed free from original sin, the sin we are all born in to, and begin a new life in Christ.Parents who present their child for Baptism are then entrusted to pass on the faith and at the appropriate time present them to receive the other two Sacraments of Initiation – Confirmation and Eucharist. Confirmation Confirmation is the sacrament by which a person renews and confirms the promises made, on their behalf by their parents and godparents, when they were presented for Baptism. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit they receive the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit that they can draw strength from as they bear witness to Christ in their lives through word and deed. Eucharist In the Eucharist we offer bread and wine to God and it becomes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the body and blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, which we then receive in Holy Communion. This sacrament unites us with Jesus and with one another. The Eucharist is the high point of our Christian worship together. ‘It is the source and summit of all Christian life.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324) Penance & Reconciliation The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, also known as Confession, is a sacrament of healing. Following an examination of conscience and repentance for sins, confession is made to a priest who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, forgives us our sins and reconciles us to God. A penance is imposed, usually in the form of prayer. Anointing of the Sick This is the second sacrament of healing to those who have a serious illness or are nearing death. It gives comfort, peace and courage to those who are sick or dying and in addition forgives their sins and prepares them for their time of death. Jesus showed great concern for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the sick and commanded his followers to do the same. Holy Orders Holy Orders is the sacrament by which bishops, priests and deacons are ordained and receive the power and grace to act in the name of Christ. Holy Orders is only received by those who have the vocation to priesthood, who in turn become the very men who can administer all of the sacraments. Through their ordination they perform their sacred duties – preach the Gospel, celebrate divine worship, especially the Eucharist, and to act as a pastor to the faithful.The Holy Order gives a special effusion of the Holy Spirit and has a special characteristic: he who receives this sacrament will be a priest forever, his soul permanently marked and called apart by God. Matrimony The sacrament of matrimony is also a vocation. Through the vows taken a man and woman are joined together for life. Marriage begins with a wedding service in the presence of God and the faith community and the couple continue to confer the sacrament on one another whenever they offer themselves in the service of the other and the larger community. Thus, marriage is an ongoing sacrament. The grace of the sacrament is there to strengthen the couple and should be open to creating and raising a family.