Before we get into the details of each sacrament, we want to reiterate one of the most important things about the sacraments — that they’re means which God uses to show His grace and help us achieve salvation. The word sacrament means a sign of the sacred, which is fitting as they are all outwards signs from God to us. Not only are they signs, they’re also celebrations of a continued journey and relationship with God, teachings to help live out His word and ceremonies to show devotion to Him.
The seven sacraments are baptism, confirmation, communion, reconciliation, anointing, matrimony and holy orders. They are divided into three categories: sacraments of initiation, sacraments of healing and sacraments of communion & mission.
In the Bible, Christ gives his followers clear instructions on how to administer and receive each of the sacraments. This is seen through his work with the Apostles, healing the sick, parables, giving his body and blood to nourish our souls and forgiving sinners. The Church administers these holy sacraments as instructed, in order for all to worship God and receive His salvation.
The three sacraments of initiation are baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Each is meant to strengthen your faith and forge a deeper relationship with God. Baptism frees you from original sin, confirmation strengthens your faith and Eucharist allows you to taste the body and blood of eternal life and be reminded of Christ’s love and sacrifice.
Baptism is the first sacrament where you become united with Christ and the Church – no other sacrament can be received without it. A priest performs this rite by immersing the baptismal candidate into water, therefore cleansing their original sin through water and the word. The candidate traditionally wears white garments, a candle is lit and they are anointed with sacred chrism. This is the first step in your relationship with God and Christ. Usually this takes place when the candidate is a baby, however, it’s never too late and you’re never too old to begin your journey with God. It’s common to have a baptism celebration with friends and family afterwards and give the child baptism keepsakes that will help them grow in their faith.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Mark 1:9-11
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. Acts 16:31, 33
This is the sacrament that follows Baptism as part of the initiation process with God and the Church, where the candidate receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and continues their journey with Christ. During Confirmation, the candidate is anointed on the forehead with chrism by a bishop. Since baptism typically happens when the candidate is a baby, confirmation is a great way for an older child to acknowledge that they still want to continue their journey with God and grow their relationship with Him. Celebrate your child’s confirmation by giving them a Bible with meaningful verses highlighted or cross as a daily reminder of God’s love.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Communion (or Eucharist) means thanksgiving. This is when Christ’s body and blood are offered and then received by the parishioner in the form of bread and wine. Christ during the Last Supper broke bread, ate it, gave it to his disciples and told them to eat it. Now the priest, through the words of consecration, blesses and administers the Holy Communion during every mass to remind followers that they are one with Christ. Food and drink nourishes our bodies ‒- Christ’s blood and body nourishes us spiritually.
Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26-28
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:42-46
The two sacraments of healing are penance and anointing the sick. Penance allows for spiritual healing and absolution for people who have distanced themselves from God through sin. Anointing the sick allows for both physical and spiritual healing. When one falls seriously ill, a minister anoints them and prays over them, calling on Christ to strengthen and heal.
During the sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance), one confesses their sins to God through a priest who forgives their sins by God’s mercy, and orders them to live a more faithful life through absolution. Confession is essential to cultivating and fruitfully living out the word of God. We’re not perfect people, even if we try to be. It feels so much better to confess some of those things you have done wrong and receive forgiveness. This helps us have a stronger relationship with God.
No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:3
But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die. Ezekiel 18:21 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13
This sacrament is only bestowed upon those who are seriously ill or suffering, which then unites the inflicted with Christ’s passion. Anointing the forehand and hands of the person with chrism while a priest administers a special blessing is how this sacrament is received. This special blessing is one way to make the ill feel strengthened and more connected with God in both mind and body.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:14
And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. Mark 6:13 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:17
Through matrimony and the holy orders, couples and the clergy promise to serve and build up the church community.
Matrimony (or Marriage) isn’t just a union between man and wife. The devotion husband and wife have to each other, and to Christ, mirrors Christ’s love and service to the church. Through marriage, a couple promises to help build each other up in faith, serve each other and the church and be faithful to each other until death.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. Ephesians 5:25
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27-28
This sacrament is for those who choose to become a priest, bishop or deacon. Through ordination, they are able to perform sacred duties and serve the church community. This is not a sacrament that everyone partakes in, rather it’s one that people feel called to by God.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19
Receiving one of the seven sacraments is a life-changing moment where one truly experiences God’s salvation and Christ’s sacrifice. Events like first communion are exciting and deserve special gifts. Growing in faith doesn’t only happen through the sacraments, it happens through daily prayer and devotion. Tools like a rosary, Bible, prayer journal and cross can assist you in practicing your faith.
If you know anyone about to partake in a sacrament or looking for tools to nourish their faith, consider blessing them in their journey with special religious gifts. It will be a keepsake that will stay with them as their faith continues to deepen.