What are the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church?

According to the Baltimore Catechism, a sacrament is “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.” They are ceremonies or special occasions that help one experience God’s saving presence.

They are recognized by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The seven sacraments that are regarded as instruments of God’s grace are as follows:

Baptism

Baptism is the first sacrament of the Catholic Church. It is a purifying sacrament of re-birth that marks one’s entry in the Christian community. It cleanses one of sin and joins one with Christ.

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
~ Romans 6:3-4

Baptism is essential for salvation. The rite involves pouring water on the believer’s head three times while reciting the Trinitarian formula (“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”). You may read more about the Trinitarian formula and its use in Baptism at Wikipedia.

Confirmation

Confirmation is also called Confession and is referred to as Chrismation in the Eastern Churches. Through this sacrament, one receives the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it facilitates deepening of the baptismal grace.

The rite for this sacrament includes anointing the forehead with the Holy Chrism (it is olive oil mixed with balsam and consecrated by the bishop) and the laying on of the minister’s hand while he speaks the sacramental words conferring the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, fortitude, right judgment or counsel, wonder and awe in God (fear of the Lord), and piety.

Holy Communion

Holy Communion is also known as Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord’s Supper, etc. It is the sacrament through which Christ associates with the Church.

It deepens the communicant’s union with Christ. It is a sacrifice and a meal. Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion, together constitute the Sacraments of Initiation.

Reconciliation

Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are the Sacraments of Healing. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, sins after Baptism are forgiven, thereby leading to spiritual consolation.

It is also called the Penance or Penance and Reconciliation. It helps in reconciliation with God through the three elements of conversion, confession and celebration.

It is more of a healing rather than judgment or punishment. You can read about the Sacrament of Reconciliation in detail at www.newadvent.org.

Marriage

The Sacrament of Marriage unites a Christian man in woman in holy matrimony that cannot be dissolved by human power. It is seen as a sign of the love that comes from God and that God has for His creation.

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
~ Matthew 19:4-6

Holy Orders

Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders or Ordination, priests, bishops, or ministers of the Church are ordained. Thus, they receive the sacred power or grace to perform their sacred duties and to act in persona Christi.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
~ Matthew 28:19-20

Anointing of the Sick

Anointing of the Sick was previously known as Extreme Unction or Last Rites. This sacrament is meant for healing physical as well as mental and spiritual ailments.

It brings courage, strength, and peace to endure suffering of sickness or old age as a true Christian should. For this, the sick person is anointed with blessed oil.