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Catholic Holy Communion Eucharist

The 7 Sacraments of the Catholic Church

The Sacraments: Guideposts of Faith

The Sacraments of the Catholic Church are the guideposts of our faith.  They give us a road map of how to live out our faith.  They begin early in our lives with Baptism and continue throughout our lives.  But, what is the purpose of the Sacraments?  Are they mere rituals?  Are they a method for us to earn God’s grace?  For many Catholics, these are difficult questions to answer.

To understand the Sacraments, it may help to start at the beginning.  What are the Seven Sacraments?  They are:

  1. Baptism
  2. Confirmation
  3. The Eucharist
  4. Penance and Reconciliation
  5. Anointing of the Sick
  6. Matrimony
  7. Holy Orders

The Church further groups them in this way:

  • The Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist)
  • Sacraments of Healing (Penance/Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick)
  • Sacraments at the Service of Communion (Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders)

Most of us will only be able to engage in six of the Sacraments.  Why is that?  Because few will receive both the Sacrament of Matrimony and of Holy Orders.  There are some exceptions, such as widowers who later choose to take Holy Orders, but this is not common.

Grace in Our Lives

Many feel that the Sacraments are mere rituals.  Others feel that they are a means to salvation.  In the end, they have a much deeper purpose and meaning than either of these.  The Sacraments are not a method by which we earn God’s grace.  Instead, they are a way that Christ shares his grace with us.  There is no way for us to earn God’s grace, a grace that is freely shared with us.  Beyond mere ritual, Christ shares the Sacraments with us as a way of showing us His awesome love.  They are a way for us to connect with Him and develop a deeper relationship through faith.  They allow us to have a real, substantial connection to Christ in a way that would not be possible otherwise.  Truly, the Sacraments are a gift.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA) gives an excellent explanation of the Sacraments.  The USCCA states that the Sacraments are an effective sign of Christ’s work in our lives as Sacraments that he instituted, that are carried out by the Church, and result in a life shared with Christ.  What a fantastic thought!  God loves us, and He wants us to love Him back.  He gave us the Sacraments as a way for us to come closer to Him.  Through the Sacraments, we have a concrete way to connect with our Saviour.

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