Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Latin word sacramentum means "a sign of the sacred." The seven
Sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage,
Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick, are the life of the Catholic
Church. Each Sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. When we
participate in them, each provides us with graces, with the life of God
in our soul. In the Sacraments, God gives us the graces necessary to
live a truly human life.
The Sacraments are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant and
important for Christians. They are special occasions for experiencing
God's saving presence. That's what theologians mean when they say that
Sacraments are at the same time signs and instruments of
God's grace. Learning more about the Sacraments can help you to celebrate them more fully.
For Catholics, the
Sacrament of Baptism is the first step in a lifelong journey of
commitment and discipleship. Whether we are baptized as infants or
adults, Baptism is the Church's way of celebrating and enacting the
embrace of God. It is the first of the seven Sacraments not
only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in
priority, since the reception of the other Sacraments depends on it. It
is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation, the other two being
the Sacrament of Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Once Baptized, a person becomes a member of the
Church. Baptism is the sacrament
that frees man from original sin, and also makes you a
member of Christ and His Church. It is the door to a new and supernatural life
and gives sanctifying grace. That grace prepares us for the reception of
the other Sacraments and helps us to live our lives as Christians. This sacrament has been in the Church since the beginning of Christian
tradition. The symbol for Baptism is water.
The Sacrament of
Reconciliation (also known as Penance, or Confession)
has three elements: conversion, confession and celebration. When
we sin, we deprive ourselves of God’s grace. And by doing so, we make it
even easier to sin more. The only way out of this downward cycle is
to acknowledge our sins, to be sorry for them, and to ask God’s
forgiveness. Reconciling with God is a great source of grace and the
grace we receive can restore our souls and we can once again
The institution of Confession occurred on Easter Sunday, when Christ
first appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection. Breathing on
them, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you
forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are
retained” (John 20:22-23). Catholics are encouraged to take advantage of
this Sacrament often. In
Reconciliation we find God's unconditional forgiveness, and as a result we are
called to forgive others. If the Church is to completely fulfill her task of saving mankind she needs the power to forgive sins.
The person is asked to sin no more and turn in faith to Christ. The sign
for Penance is Forgiveness.
or Holy Communion
As Catholics we
believe the Holy Eucharist, or Communion, is both a sacrifice and a
meal. We believe in the real presence of Jesus, who died for our sins.
As we receive Christ's Body and Blood, we are also nourished spiritually
and brought closer to God. The Eucharistic meal can only
be prepared in the sacrifice of the Mass.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion is one of the three
Sacraments of Initiation. The Church urges us to receive
Communion frequently (even daily, if possible). It
is called a Sacrament of Initiation because, like
Baptism and Confirmation, it brings us into the fullness
of our life in Christ.
In Holy Communion, we are
eating the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, without
which "you shall not have life in you" (John 6:53).
Spiritually, our souls become more
united to Christ, both through the
graces we receive and through the change
in our actions that those graces effect.
Receiving Communion frequently increases our love
for God and for our neighbor, which
expresses itself in action, which makes
us more like Christ. By receiving Christ's Body
and Blood, our own bodies are
sanctified, and we grow in our likeness
to Christ. The symbol for The Eucharist is the water,
wine and bread.
Confirmation is a
Sacrament of mature Christian commitment and a deepening of Baptismal
gifts. Like Baptism and Eucharist, it is a Sacrament of Initiation for
Catholics and a Sacrament of faith in God's fidelity to us.
By the Sacrament of Confirmation,
we are more perfectly
bound to the Church and are enriched
with a special strength of the Holy
Spirit. The graces we receive
are the same that were granted to the Apostles on Pentecost. So we are, as true
witnesses of Christ,
obliged to spread and defend the
faith by word and deed.
The Sacrament of
Confirmation completes the Sacrament of Baptism. If
Baptism is the Sacrament of
re-birth to a new and supernatural
life, Confirmation is the Sacrament of maturity and coming of age. Like Baptism, therefore, it can only be performed once, and
Confirmation increases and deepens all of the graces
granted at Baptism. The symbol
and sign for Confirmation is the oils and the imposition of hands by the Bishop.
The Sacrament of
Marriage, or Holy Matrimony, is a public sign that one gives oneself totally to
this other person. It is also a public statement about God, the loving union of
husband and wife speaks of family values and God's values.
Marriage was elevated by Christ Himself, in His
participation in the wedding at Cana (John
2:1-11), to be one of the Seven Sacraments. A
marriage between two Christians, therefore, has a
supernatural element and is a Sacrament.
As married Christians, Matrimony and Holy orders are the two
Sacraments which not only
serve the individuals but are there for the benefit of the
community. The effect of the Sacrament is an increase in sanctifying grace for
the spouses, and participation in the divine life of God
Himself. The sign for matrimony is the vows and the
In the Sacrament
of Holy Orders, or Ordination, the priest being ordained vows to lead
other Catholics by bringing them the Sacraments (especially the
Eucharist), by proclaiming the Gospel, and by providing other means to
holiness. The supreme task which
Christ had to fulfill was his priestly work of mediator between God and man.
Because He was both human and divine, Christ
is by nature the mediator.
There is only one Sacrament of Holy Orders, but there
are three levels. The first is that which Christ Himself
bestowed upon His Apostles, the episcopate. A bishop is
a man who is ordained to the episcopate by another
bishop. He stands in a direct, unbroken line from the
Apostles, a condition known as "apostolic succession."
The second level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is the
priesthood. No bishop can minister to all of the
faithful in his diocese, so priests act, in the words of
the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as "co-workers of
the bishops." They exercise their powers
in communion with their bishop, and so they promise
obedience to their bishop at the time of their
ordination. The chief duties of the priesthood are
the preaching of the Gospel and the
offering of the Eucharist.
The third level of the Sacrament of Holy
Orders is the diaconate. A deacon is no longer
a layman, but a member of the clergy. The permanent
diaconate was restored by the Second Vatican Council.
Deacons assist priests and bishops
at the altar, distribute the Eucharist
as an ordinary minister, bless
marriages, preside over funerals,
proclaim the Gospel and preach and
administers viaticum to the sick.
Married men are allowed to become
permanent deacons. The sign and symbol for Holy Orders is the oils
and imposition of hands.
Anointing of the sick
The Sacrament of
Anointing of the Sick, formerly known as Last Rites or Extreme Unction,
is a ritual of healing appropriate not only for physical but also for
mental and spiritual sickness.
The celebration of the
Sacrament of the Anointing
of the Sick recalls the
early Christian use, going
back to biblical times. When
Christ sent His disciples
out to preach, "they cast
out many devils, and
anointed with oil many that
were sick, and healed them"
(Mark 6:13). It provides the recipient with
a number of graces,
including the fortitude to
resist temptation in the
face of death, a union with
the Passion of Christ, which
makes his suffering holy;
and the grace to prepare for
death, so that he or she may meet
God in hope rather than in
fear. If the recipient was
not able to receive the
Sacrament of Confession,
Anointing also provides
forgiveness of sins and
it will aid in the salvation
of his or her soul. Anointing may
restore the recipient's
health. Only a priest or bishop can validly administer it. It can be received by any
baptized person who is, on account of sickness or age, in danger of death.
The sign for Anointing of the Sick is the oils.