As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. As in the other sacraments, Jesus Christ is truly present and acts within his body, the church. Baptism is the first sacrament that we receive, which makes us members of Christ's Body. We are continually nourished, healed, and emboldened by all of the sacraments to enter more fully into the mystery of Christ's life. The sacraments are both the sign and instrument of Christ's salvation of the world in and through his paschal mystery.
Each sacrament carries a particular grace, or touchstone with God's life, which communicates Jesus' mission to each of us as individuals. Through our ordinary and regular participation in the sacraments of the Church, we allow Christ to go to work more deeply in our souls, which draws us into deeper holiness. As we grow in holiness, our lives become more configured to Christ's life, allowing us to grow in our discipleship. Christ communicates to the world through his body, the Church. Our participation in the sacraments gives us the grace we need to allow Christ to work through us that we, like the sacraments themselves, become the sign and instrument of his salvation of the world.
Sacraments of Initiation
The Sacraments of Initiation form the foundations of every Christian life. The sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation allow us to share in and receive God's trine life in a profound way. They facilitate the extension of the grace of God's life so that all men and women who come to faith in Jesus Christ can receive the divine life that is necessary for sanctification and holiness.
Baptism is often called the "gateway sacrament" because it represents incorporation into the Church as the Body of Christ and is the "door" through which we have access to all of the other sacraments. Through Baptism, we are freed from sin and reborn as sons and daughters in the Sonship of Jesus Christ. By becoming members of the Church, we receive a share in her mission to form all people into the New Covenant of all races, peoples, and cultures into the life of Jesus Christ. Baptism permanently marks our souls for God by God so that he can live his life through us. Baptism is the incorporation into the one priesthood of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Eucharist is the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which is the living memorial entrusted to the Church. It is the source and summit of Christian life because it is the very body and blood of Jesus. When Christians receive the Eucharist, they are drawn into God's life through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, which is the one salvific act of Christ. By being drawn into the mystery of the Eucharist, Christians are drawn into communion with one another. The Eucharist creates the unity of the Church because it is the true presence of Christ in the world.
Confirmation, together with Baptism and Holy Eucharist, constitute the sacraments of Christian initiation. The grace that comes from Confirmation builds upon and completes Baptism. The grace of Confirmation gives Christians the the strength of the Holy Spirit in a profound way to live out their Baptism in an authentic evangelical discipleship with Jesus Christ. Like Baptism, Confirmation places a permanent mark or character on the soul of the individual disciple so that they may share everything they receive in Baptism in a mature and evangelical manner. The reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation represents the fulness of Christian Initiation.
Sacraments of Vocation
The Sacraments of Vocation are built upon the Sacraments of Initiation and include the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. These sacraments are the way that Christians live out their life in Christ by responding to the particular call by God either in marriage or as a priest. While the uniqueness of each of the Sacraments of Initiation focus us on our own individual salvation, the Sacraments of Vocation direct us toward the salvation of others, as well as ourselves. Marriage and Holy Orders, seen in light of each other in the life of the Church, allow Christians to live our a particular mission in the Church that allows Christ's relationship with humanity to build up the People of God. Both Marriage and Holy Orders represent a unique consecration; Marriage represents the consecration of one person to another and Holy Orders represents consecration to the entire Church.
The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, or Marriage is a sacrament where a man and woman commit themselves to each other in a partnership of their entire lives in fidelity to each other both for their own good and the god of their children. Sacred Scripture refers to Marriage as a "mystery" because of the unique way that Christ raises the matrimonial bond to the level of a sacrament. Within the life of the Church, Marriage makes the universal of between Jesus and his Bride, the Church, present in a unique way between a man and a woman. The love of a married couple is like Christ's: it is selfless and sacrificial for the sake of the good of the other spouse. For Latin Rite Catholics the celebration of Marriage normally takes place during Mass because of its deep connection with the Eucharist. The matrimonial bond is formed between the couple by their exchange of vows and mutual consent to enter into a loving, permanent relationship broken only by death. The sacrament of Marriage is possible when two persons have both received all of the Sacraments of Initiation.
Like Marriage, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is built upon the Sacraments of Initiation and is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. Properly speaking, it is the sacrament of the ministry of the Apostles and is composed of three degrees: Episcopate (Bishops), Presbyterate (Priests), and Diaconate (Deacons). Those who can be admitted into the Sacrament of Holy Orders are men who have received the Sacraments of Initiation. Sacramental ordination takes place by a bishop and imparts a "sacred power" which comes from Christ, himself through his Church. The ministerial priesthood, imparted by reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, is at the service of the Baptismal Priesthood in the celebration of the Sacraments so that Christ's body may continue to be build up in its members to evangelize as faithful disciples. Like Confirmation and Baptism, Holy Orders places a mark or character on the soul of the recipient so that they may act "in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church."
Sacraments of Healing
The Sacraments of Healing represent Jesus' healing remedy for the effects of sin which remain after baptism. St. Paul reminds that we carry our life in Christ "in earthen vessels" which still suffer the effects of sin and death. The Sacraments of Healing, which include Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, convey the healing presence and ministry of Jesus Christ to remedy the weakness of original sin that remains in the human person. These two sacraments represent Christ restorative presence in those who seek mercy and forgiveness.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the forgiveness of personal sins committed by a baptized person, who receives sacramental absolution when they confess their sins to the Church's minister, a priest. While it is true that Baptism washes away original sin as well as any other sins that a person has committed prior to their baptism, the person still possesses the ability to commit personal sins, either mortal or venial. The sacramental absolution that a penitent receives by confessing their sins to a priest is the absolution of Christ, himself through the priest. Regular reception of Reconciliation enables Catholics to grow in their discipleship with Jesus because it is an integral part of our conversion. The effects of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are full reconciliation with God through the Church, as well as the restoration of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love in the soul. Reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation represents a spiritual resurrection, whereby we are able to more fully live Jesus' own resurrection from the dead.
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick represents union with the passion of Christ in the midst of a persons illness. This sacrament takes sickness and bodily death, which is an expression of the extend of the fall of man from original sin, and allows sickness to be redemptive for the individual. This sacrament takes sick and suffering which, in and of themselves can bring about hopelessness, and uses them to transform a person even at the end of their lives. Reception of Anointing of the Sick is celebrated by being anointed with blessed oil with the proper prayers by a priest or bishop. By receiving Anointing of the Sick, a baptized person participates in the saving work of Jesus Christ.