The seven sacraments are Catholic rituals marking seven stages of spiritual development. They are outward signs that Christ instituted to give grace. Baptism is the first – the gateway to all of the others, namely Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. There follows a very brief introduction to each of the sacraments taken from the Catechism Of The Catholic Church.
Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift… The sacrament is called Baptism after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize means to
“plunge”; 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”.
Confirmation is the strengthening of the new life of Baptism. As such it brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace. St Ambrose, speaking to the newly confirmed explains: “Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts” (St. Ambrose, De myst. 7, 42: PL 16, 402-403).
It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin. It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful people. It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent pardon.
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’
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.
ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Like all the sacraments, holy anointing was instituted by Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry. It conveys several graces and imparts gifts of strengthening in the Holy Spirit against anxiety, discouragement, and temptation, and conveys peace and fortitude . These graces flow from the atoning death of Jesus Christ, for “this was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’” (Matt. 8:17)
The word “ordination” is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a “sacred power” which can come only from Christ himself through his Church. Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his Church. The laying on of hands by the bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible sign of this ordination.