The Seven Sacraments

(updated 5/16/2010)

Receiving the sacraments is a defining characteristic of Catholic life (1). Catholics willingly receive the sacraments, and they find tremendous personal peace in them and communal celebration (1). They even find, during severe crises, that the sacraments are worth dying for (1; pg 14).

The sacraments are not merely doctrines of a Church that some might argue are irrelevant distractions. Rather, they are biblically founded means that convey Christ's sanctifying grace upon his Church, signifying the spiritual realities they represent through physical signs and actions (1; pg 14).

This is why Catholics cherish the gift that Christ conveys to his people through these mysteries.

In our youth retreats, I emphasize the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist because we can receive these continually throughout our lives here on earth. I analogize these two sacraments to the way we care for ourselves by eating and bathing. If we don't take a bath, then we stink. If we don't eat, then we die. How much more important is our soul? If we confess our sins, then we cleanse our souls. If we partake and eat of the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, then we will feed our souls and have everlasting life.

Some people may ask, "Where in the Bible is the word 'Sacrament'?" Saint Paul wrote that he wanted people to consider him and his fellow missionaries as "stewards of the 'mysteries' of God" (1 Cor 4:1) (1). St. Jerome's Latin translation of the Bible uses the word sacramentum to translate the Greek word musterion - that is, "mystery" (1).

Mystery - What is a mystery? The dictionary says the following: "1, a fact or phenomenon whose meaning or cause is unknown; an enigma or puzzle." The Bible says that a mystery are "things that have remained hidden since the foundation of the world, but were now revealed by Christ" (1).

"Mystery", or sacrament, is the term for the seven signs instituted by Christ to effect and signify holiness and righteousness (1).

Calling something a mystery doesn't mean it is completely unknowable; it simply means it's too deep for us to know completely. Many truths revealed by our infinite God will be difficult for our finite minds to conceive (2). For example, it is a mystery that God created the world out of nothing, It is a mystery that God became Man (the Incarnation), and rose from the dead (the Ressurrection). It is a mystery that God is one in three persons (the Trinity). Just because something is far beyond our complete understanding does not mean that it is not true.

 

Baptism - Matt 28:19; Mk 16:16; Titus 3:5; Rom 6:3-4; Mk 1:4; Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5

Confirmation - Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16-17; Acts 19:6; 2 Cor 1:21-22

Holy Communion (the Eucharist) - Matt 26:26; Mk 14:23-24; 1 Cor 11:23-25; Jn 6:51,55; 1 Cor 10:16

Reconciliation (Confession)- Jn 20:23; James 5:16; 2 Cor 5:18; 1 Jn 5:16-17

Annointing of the Sick - Mk 6:12-13; James 5:14-15

Holy Orders - 1 Cor 4:15; Heb 12:9; Lk 22:19; Jn 20:21-22

Matrimony - Matt 19:5; Eph 5:25; Rev 19:7

 

Reference:

1. St. Paul: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics by Fr. Mitch Pacwa. Our Sunday Visitor 2008 pg. 13 (Eph 1:4; 3:9; Col 1:26; 1 Cor 2:7)

2. Beginning Apologetics 2.5: Yes! You Should Believe in the Trinity: How to Answer Jehovah's Witnesses.

3. The Bible Thumper, Vol 2: Sacraments, by Jim Burnham, Brian Butler, and Matthew Pinto. Ascension Press 2004