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The Seven Sacraments

(from the Baltimore Catechism)

What is a Sacrament?

A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

Are these three things, namely: An outward or visible sign, the institution of that sign by Christ, and the giving of grace through the use of that sign, always necessary for the existence of a Sacrament?

These three things, namely: An outward or visible sign, the institution of that sign by Christ, and the giving of grace through the use of that sign, are always necessary for the existence of a Sacrament, and if any of the three be wanting, there can be no Sacrament.

Why does the Church use numerous ceremonies or actions in applying the outward signs of the Sacraments?

The Church uses numerous ceremonies or actions in applying the outward signs of the Sacraments to increase our reverence and devotion for the Sacraments, and to explain their meaning and effects.

How many Sacraments are there?

There are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

Were all the Sacraments instituted by Our Lord?

All the Sacraments were instituted by Our Lord, for God alone has power to attach the gift of grace to the use of an outward or visible sign. The Church, however,can institute the ceremonies to be used in administering or giving the Sacraments.

How do we know there are seven Sacraments and no more or less?

We know there are seven Sacraments and no more or less because the Church always taught that truth. The number of the Sacraments is a matter of faith, and the Church cannot be mistaken in matters of faith.

Why have the Sacraments been instituted?

The Sacraments have been instituted as a special means through which we are to receive the grace merited for us by Christ. As Christ is the giver of the grace, He has the right to determine the manner in which it shall be given, and one who refuses to make use of the Sacraments will not receive God's grace.

Do the Sacraments recall in any way the means by which Our Lord merited the graces we receive through them?

The Sacraments recall in many ways the means by which Our Lord merited the graces we receive through them. Baptism recalls His profound humility; Confirmation His ceaseless prayer; Holy Eucharist His care of the needy; Penance His mortified life; Extreme Unction His model death; Holy Orders His establishment of the priesthood, and Matrimony His close union with the Church.

Do the needs of the soul resemble the needs of the body?

The needs of the soul do resemble the needs of the body; for the body must be born, strengthened, nourished, healed in affliction, helped at the hour of death, guided by authority, and given a place in which to dwell. The soul is brought into spiritual life by Baptism; it is strengthened by Confirmation; nourished by the Holy Eucharist; healed by Penance; helped at the hour of our death by Extreme Unction; guided by God's ministers through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and it is given a body in which to dwell by the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Whence have the Sacraments the power of giving grace?

The Sacraments have the power of giving grace from the merits of Jesus Christ.

Does the effect of the Sacraments depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who administers them?

The effect of the Sacraments does not depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who administers them, but on the merits of Jesus Christ, who instituted them, and on the worthy dispositions of those who receive them.

What grace do the Sacraments give?

Some of the Sacraments give sanctifying grace, and others increase it in our souls.

When is a Sacrament said to give, and when is it said to increase, grace in our souls?

A Sacrament is said to give grace when there is no grace whatever in the soul, or in other words, when the soul is in mortal sin. A Sacrament is said to increase grace when there is already grace in the soul, to which more is added by the Sacrament received.

What sin does he commit who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sin?

He who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sincommits a sacrilege, which is a great sin, because it is an abuse of a sacred thing.

In what other ways besides the unworthy reception of the Sacraments may persons commit sacrilege?

Besides the unworthy reception of the Sacraments, persons may commit sacrilege by the abuse of a sacred person, place or thing; for example, by willfully wounding a person consecrated to God; by robbing or destroying a church; by using the sacred vessels of the Altar for unlawful purposes, etc.

Besides sanctifying grace do the Sacraments give any other grace?

Besides sanctifying grace the Sacraments give another grace, called sacramental grace.

What is sacramental grace?

Sacramental grace is a special help which God gives, to attain the end for which He instituted each Sacrament.

Do the Sacraments always give grace?

The Sacraments always give grace, if we receive them with the right dispositions.