Review of Sacraments


What is a Sacrament

A Sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.

Why an outward sign?

God acts in physical ways to help us. We have both physical and spiritual components. God created the physical, and saw that it was good. Thus his action through the physical elements is a direct way for Him to interact with us and to give us grace.

What is Grace?

Grace is God’s life within us. We are surrounded by God, and the sacraments are a means to allow God’s grace to be within us. There are two types of grace:
All sacraments give both kinds of grace.

What is Sin?

Simply put, sin is a turning away from God. More completely (from Compendium of the CCC):

Sin is “a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law” (Saint Augustine). It is an offense against God in disobedience to his love. It wounds human nature and injures human solidarity. Christ in his passion fully revealed the seriousness of sin and overcame it with his mercy.

Sin can be venial or mortal.

What is Venial Sin?

Venial sins are a small turning away. However, we can become indifferent to God through such sin and thus become more open to temptation to mortal sin. Since God is perfect, even the “minor” imperfectness of venial sin is horrible to God.

What is Mortal Sin?

A mortal sin is composed of the following three aspects:
Note, sometimes the matter of the sin does not require an exterior action and indeed, may be inaction on the part of the sinner.
How does someone know that the matter is serious? The church calls us to have a well formed conscience, in order to know right from wrong. The church also believes in natural law that is mentioned in Holy Scriptures, that God has written his law into our hearts. When we harden our hearts to God, our conscience can “die”.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great to inform ourselves.

Upon death, the punishment of mortal sin is eternal damnation.

What is Temporal Punishment?

Temporal punishment is the remaining need of purification after the forgiveness of sin. This purification can be done in this life or in purgatory.

Disposition to Receive Sacraments

All sacraments must be received with the proper disposition. If a sacrament is received with the proper disposition, then sacraments remove sin and give grace. For instance, one should not receive Holy Eucharist in the state of mortal sin. This would be a sacrilege and a further sin.

Ex Opere Operato

Sacraments do what they say they do – literally “by the fact of the action’s being performed,” i.e., by the virtue of Christ’s saving work accomplished once for all. The sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of the either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.

Since it is Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. Thus a priest could be in mortal sin and the Eucharist would still be valid.

Sacraments of Initiation

The sacraments of initiation are Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation. These bring the recipient into the full life of God and the Church.


This sacrament initiates us into the life of the Church as children of God. We become priest, prophet and king. We can only be baptized one time. God does not go back on his word, so once you are an adopted child, you are forever a child of God. This is called an indelible mark. (Such an indelible mark is also the result of Confirmation and Holy Orders)


The signs of Baptism are water and words. The water must be plain, flowing if possible and may be sprinkled, poured or the person may be lowered into a pool or stream. The words are “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Water symbolizes cleaning and a joining in the death and resurrection of Jesus.


We become adopted children of God, and are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that God’s life can be fruitful in our lives. Baptism also removes all sin and all temporal punishment due to sin.


Mt 28:19: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Mk 16:16: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;

Jn 3:5: Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.


This sacrament in some way completes the action of Baptism. We fully receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation can only be received one time. By confirmation the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit.


The sign of the sacrament is the laying on of hands and the anointing of the forehead with sacred chrism and the saying of the words, “be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The chrism is oil that symbolizes a seal and protection from evil, like a wrestler in Grecian times would be “oiled” to make him hard to grab. Chrism also is used to anoint royalty. The laying on of hands symbolizes the passing on of the Holy Spirit.


Confirmation perfects the Baptismal graces. It roots us more deeply into divine son ship, incorporates us more firmly into the Christ, strengthens our bond with the Church and her mission and helps us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds. We are made ready to defend our faith and our God. The grace we receive helps us to live through the rejection of others toward us, toward our faith and toward our God and helps us to actively spread God’s faith to others. To help us with this, the Holy Spirit gives us the following seven gifts:
Wisdom to manage our human affairs according to God's truth; to love the things of heaven over those of the earth
Knowledge to realize the proper path or course of action  to follow and dangers to avoid
Understanding to understand our faith and its meaning to our life
Counsel to determine God’s will for us
Fortitude to do what is right and avoid evil even in the face of difficulty
Piety to revere and worship god, giving respect to others and joyfully do God’s work
Fear of the Lord
(Wonder and Awe)
to love God so much that we fear losing him, to understand that God is so much greater than us, to be in awe of God


Jn 14:16: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate 8 to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.

Jn 14:25: "I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.

Acts 2:1-4: When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, 3 which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Acts 19:6: And when Paul laid (his) hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Eph 1:13: In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory.

Holy Eucharist

Holy Eucharist is the summit of Catholic life. During the celebration of the Mass, we participate in the sacrifice of Calvary. Christ commanded us to do this at the Last Supper. The Lord himself comes to us during the Mass, as we come together (where two or more are gathered), in His Word (Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God), but most especially and intimately in Holy Communion.


The signs of this sacrament are the words of institution and the matter of bread and wine. The words are “this is my body, this is my blood, do this in remembrance of me.” The bread must be unleavened as used in Passover and contain only wheat (no sugar or preservatives). The wine must be from grapes and contain no preservatives. The bread and wine (now the body and blood of Christ) nourishes our souls.


Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. As St. Augustine says, “We become what we eat!” Usually, what we eat becomes part of us. In Eucharist we are made more Christ like. This is what we are called to be as children of God.


Jn 6:51-69: I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Mt 26:26-28: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Lk 22:19: Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me."

1 Cor 11:23-29: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, 13 and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Sacraments of Healing

The sacraments of healing are Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick.

Reconciliation (Confession, Penance)

This sacrament is the ordinary means of receiving forgiveness of sins, especially mortal (or grievous) sins.  It reconciles us with God and with his Church. Through this sacrament, one confesses, their sins, receives absolution, performs penance and desires to amend their lives.


The signs of Penance are the words of penitent and the words of Absolution. The penitent must speak in person to a priest (or bishop) and afterwards the priest says “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” These words symbolize the words of Jesus (see Institution)


Along with the forgiveness of the sins, this sacrament gives us actual grace to resist sin. For that reason, it is important to receive this sacrament even when there are no mortal sins. These graces can prevent us from falling into mortal sin.


Jn 20:21-23: (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Mt 16:19: Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Mt 18:18: Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Anointing of the Sick

This sacrament is a sacrament of healing and also a sacrament at the time of death (if possible). Jesus healed many people in his ministry. The Church celebrates this sacrament for those who are seriously ill as well as those on their death bed, when it is accompanied, if possible, by a last Holy Eucharist (called viaticum – passing over). If a person is lucid and can speak, then often the sacrament of Reconciliation is also celebrated.


The signs of this sacrament are the silent laying on of hands and the anointing with oil. Oil in the form of balm has palliative and healing effects. The oil symbolizes healing.


The grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, both physically and spiritually, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness and frailty of old age. The person receiving the sacrament is united in Christ’s Passion. Celebrating the sacrament offers the suffering for the sanctification of the Church.


Mt 10:7-8: “As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. “

Mk 6:13: They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Jas 5:14-15: Is anyone among you sick?  He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.

Sacraments of Vocation

The sacraments of vocation are Matrimony and Holy Orders. Vocation comes from the Latin word “to call.” We are called by God.  A vocation is our calling in life.


The sacrament of Matrimony has its origins even in the Old Testament, in Genesis 2:24
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”
Unlike any other sacrament, Marriage is ministered to one another by the people celebrating the sacrament, witnessed by an ordained minister of the Church. Each person must be baptized, come to the marriage of their own free will and have no impediment by natural or church law. Marriage is permanent, though it does not impart a mark like baptism or confirmation in that one can remarry in the case of death of a spouse.


The sign of this sacrament are the words exchanged expressing the consent of the couple. The words are a covenant bond, not a contract.


Marriage is hard. Doing anything for a short time, or a few years takes determination. To have a marriage last a life time takes the grace of God. The sacrament of Marriage imparts such grace. When coupled with prayer and the other sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, the grace of this sacrament is awesome. The graces are meant to perfect the couple’s love for each other, their children and above all, of God. The graces help them to help one another attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children. Just as the Church is the bride of Christ and he will not turn his back on his promises to the Church, so a married couple is called to the same fidelity and love of one another.


Mt 19:4-9: He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)? He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."

Mk 10:5-12: But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

 Holy Orders

This sacrament is the means that Christ entrusts his mission to his apostles and continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. There are three levels of Holy Orders:
 “Order” comes from Roman antiquity designating an established civil body, especially a governing body.


The sign of Holy Orders is the imposition of the Bishop’s hands on the head of the one to be ordained and the recitation of the prayers appropriate to the degree of ordination. The laying on of hands symbolizes apostolic succession, to a more or less degree.


As in marriage, committing to a life time of service is a tall order. Thus the grace imparted by the sacrament strengthens the recipient to do the ministry of Christ, to preach the Gospel, to act as pastor, gratuitous love for all and preferential love for the poor, the sick and the needy, to conform their lives with Christ.


Mt 28:18-20: Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

Lk 22:19: Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me."

Jn 20:22-23: And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Acts 6:6: They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.  

Acts 13:3: While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.

1Tim 4:14: Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.