Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification.
“The Sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the Sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each Sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions” (1131)
The official Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church are rooted in two things: (1) the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and (2) the tradition of the Catholic Church – the church’s wisdom, teaching, and practice handed down through the ages under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”" (CCC 1213)
“This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse”; the “plunge” into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as “a new creature.”(CCC 1214)
“No soul whatever is able to obtain salvation, unless it has believed while it was in the flesh. Indeed, the flesh is the hinge of salvation. In that regard, when the soul is deputed to something by God, it is the flesh which makes it able to carry out the commission which God has given it. The flesh, then, is washed, so that the soul may be made clean. The flesh is anointed, so that the soul may be dedicated to holiness. The flesh is signed, so that the soul too may be fortified. The flesh is shaded by the imposition of hands, so that the soul too may be illuminated by the Spirit.” – Tertullian, 208 AD
The Sacrament of Confirmation has often times been called a “sacrament without a theology” because its meaning is not as clear as sacraments like baptism or holy orders. Below is a summary of the “effects” of the sacraments:
Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace: – it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.
“The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”" (1324)
In regards the reception of the holy host in the Catholic Church, Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law governs who may receive Holy Communion. The Eucharist is the true body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. All Catholics who have commited a mortal sin and have not been to sacramental confession may not recieve Holy Communion until they have done so. A mortal sin is a sin that is 1) grave in nature, 2) a sin in which we have given the full consent of our will to acting on, and 3) a sin which we committed with full knowledge of its sinfulness. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1855-1857) Please see the reconciliation page for an examination of conscience.
Due to the nature of the Sacrament we do not allow anyone who is not in full communion with the Catholic Church to receive the Eucharist. We do however invite you to worship with us and pray for unity among all Christians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. Justin Martyr, an Early Church Father, regarding intercommunion:
Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist (“eucharisted,” according to an ancient expression), “we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.” (1355)
Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. When the prodigal son, who disowned his father came home, the father was still looking for him – the father saw him while he was still a long way off. Our Father is not a vengeful God, but a God full of mercy and compassion. He longs to shower us with love and grace if we would only let him. Pope John Paul II is well known for the phrase “Be not afraid!” and we echo his words for the sacrament of reconciliation. Take regular part in the sacrament and allow God’s grace to grow in you.
“But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20
Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance. (CCC 1440)
Christ instituted the sacrament of penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. (CCC 1446)
Catholics are encouraged to frequently receive the Sacrament of Penance in order that they might be well disposed to receive the other sacraments in a state of grace.
Anointing of the Sick
The Anointing of the Sick, is the Sacrament by which, through the prayers of a priest and the anointing with holy oil, a person who is in danger of death from sickness is given health of the soul and sometimes also of the body.
“The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church; the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age; the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for passing over to eternal life” (CCC 1532).
Does a person have to be dying to receive this sacrament? No. The Catechism says, “The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived” (CCC 1514).
“By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.” (Catechetism of the Catholic Church, 1499) In the past the sacrament has been seen as one which is only received by those who are going to die. This is not the case though. There are many reasons one may receive the sacrament. Anyone who is seriously ill, going to undergo a major surgery, or for another appropriate reason may receive the sacrament.
“Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration, whether it takes place in the family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick person or a whole group of sick persons. It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord’s Passover. If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ’s Passover the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the “viaticum” for “passing over” to eternal life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1517)
Those who are in need of this Sacrament are asked to contact a priest in the parish office to make arrangements. It is prudent to receive the Anointing of the Sick prior to serious operations or whenever there is a serious danger to health.
The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. (CIC can. 1055)
The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives the spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” - Ephesians 5:21-28
Anyone wishing to celebrate the sacrament of matrimony should contact the Church at least 6 months before their proposed wedding date.
Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission Christ entrusted to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. The sacrament of orders includes three degrees: the diaconate, the presbyterate, and episcopate.
Through the laying on of hands, and the prayer of consecration by the bishop, a man is configured to Christ the high priest, and given sacred powers to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful.
In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis.
The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ – Head of the Church – before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice (CCC 1552).
The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood: “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.” – CCC 1544 – 1545
For more information on the sacrament of Holy Orders please contact the vocations office of the Diocese of Raleigh.
There are three “levels” of holy orders. Deacons are ordained to the ministry of the Gospel. They can marry couples, baptize, preach the Gospel, give homilies, serve as minister of the cup at Communion, and aid with the social ministry of the parish. Priests offer Mass, are extraordinary ministers of the Sacrament of Confirmation, anoint the sick, and hear confessions. Bishops preside over their priests and flocks and are princes of the Church. The Holy Father is the bishop of Rome and the first among his brother bishops.