The Seven Sacraments

Baptism | Holy Eucharist | Confirmation | Penance | Extreme Unction | Holy Matrimony | Holy Orders

The life of Ss. Cosmas & Damian Parish revolves around the celebration of the sacraments. The Second Vatican Council describes the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as the
“source and summit of the Christian Life.” (Lumen Gentium 11).The other sacraments are oriented toward the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
“For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”
(Presbyterorum ordinis 5).

Each of the sacraments also gives a special grace if we receive them with the right dispositions. Therefore, the people of Ss. Cosmas & Damian Parish are encouraged to frequently receive the Sacrament of Confession in order that they might be well disposed to receive the other sacraments in a state of grace.

The traditional Baltimore Catechism tells us that
“a sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace.”There are seven sacraments:

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Holy Eucharist
  • Penance (Confession)
  • Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick)
  • Holy Matrimony
  • Holy Orders

Traditionally, the Church speaks about the Sacraments of the Living and the Sacraments of the Dead. Baptism and Penance are called sacraments of the dead because their chief purpose is to give the supernatural life of sanctifying grace to souls spiritually dead through sin. Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony are called sacraments of the living because their chief purpose is to give more grace to souls already spiritually alive through sanctifying grace. He who knowingly receives a sacrament of the living in mortal sin commits a mortal sin of sacrilege, because he treats a sacred thing with grave irreverence.
(1 Corinthians 11:27)

The articles that are provided in this section come from the Catholic Encyclopedia, originally published in the early 20th century and provide an in depth look at each of the Seven Sacraments and the scriptural and theological teachings behind each.

A Little Reminder on Why the Sacraments Are a Really Big Deal

It is critically important that we remember the sacraments are not traditions. They are not little rituals we play out like the make-believe games of childhood. They have the power to bring heaven to earth, rip the veil between all things seen and unseen, and allow humanity and eternity to commingle in mysterious, yet palpable ways. Through the sacraments, heaven comes, not just to visit, but to live with us and in us. In the sacraments, we are graced.

My appreciation for how the Church upholds and protects the seven sacraments has been vividly reawakened as I watch my brother prepare for the priesthood. Living a sacramental life is the great gift and calling of every Catholic, and we sometimes forget just how powerful and healing that is.

Learning the history of how a particular sacrament developed is a useful way to reignite our respect for its practice. For example, the rite of ordination has developed over centuries, but from apostolic times, we believe the prayers of consecration combine with the laying on of hands to effect the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Here, when the bishop calls upon the Holy Spirit, an indelible spiritual mark impresses upon the soul of a man and he becomes typos tou Patros, the living image of God the Father. Here, he is graced for the duties of his ministry. Here, he becomes a priest forever.

During the ordinations I have attended in recent years, as I watch the ordinands stretched out on the floor, knowing that one day soon it will be my own brother lying there, prostrate and anointed, there is one simple thought which consumes me: “This is a really big deal.” Here’s some more news: all the sacraments are—they’re a really big deal. For each of us.

It is particularly important for us to teach children that sacraments are so much more than a ceremony to prepare for; they are God’s way of reaching down to us and offering us a lifelong gift—a gift of grace that gives us a glimpse of heaven and a taste of eternity.

How do you help children understand that sacraments are so much more than a ceremony?

By Elizabeth M. Briel (Liz Kelly), author of May Crowning, Mass, and Merton.