Emily M. DeArdo


Catholic 101: The Sacraments--an Overview

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

A continuation of the Catholic 101 series 

One of my favorite things about being Catholic are the sacraments. Who hasn't seen a baby being baptized, clothed in white, or little boys and girls receiving their First Communions? Or seen the splendor of a Catholic wedding, or a priest's ordination? And of course, the confessional gets a lot of airplay in movies (even being the centerpiece of some, such as I Confess) , as does the sacrament of anointing of the sick, which was featured in the Outlander episode "Faith", in season two. 

Frances de la Tour (Mother Hildegard) and Caitriona Balfe (Claire Fraser) in  Outlander

Frances de la Tour (Mother Hildegard) and Caitriona Balfe (Claire Fraser) in Outlander

(At some point, I will write about Catholicism and Outlander. Just not today.) 

Sacraments in the Catholic Church are also somewhat confusing to our Protestant friends. So I'm going to explain them over the next three weeks. Today, we're doing a brief overview of what a sacrament is and what the sacraments are. 

So, what's a sacrament? 

A sacrament is a visible sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.

Well, that's nice, Emily. What's that mean. 

OK. Fair point. 

A visible sign--meaning, an action performed by a minister, usually a priest. When a baby is baptized and the priest pours of the water over her head, saying "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," that's a visible sign. When a little boy receives the Host, that's a visible sign. And so forth. 

Instituted by Christ--contrary to popular belief, the Church didn't "Make these up." All of the sacraments were instituted by Christ, and they all have Biblical support for their existence. 

to give grace--what is grace? Grace is God's life in our soul. (This is something the kids should be able to say in their sleep by the end of the year.) To expand on that--Grace is God's free gift of Himself. 

So, that's what a sacrament is. There are seven of them: 

  1. Baptism
  2. Communion/Holy Eucharist
  3. Confirmation
  4. Reconciliation/Confession
  5. Marriage
  6. Holy Orders
  7. Anointing of the Sick

I'm going to break these down into categories, for our purposes: 

  1. The sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation
  2. The sacraments of vocation: Holy Orders and Marriage
  3. The sacraments of healing: Confession and Anointing of the Sick

I hope that you enjoy reading these entries as much as I'm going to enjoy writing them. Sacraments--particularly the Eucharist--are my favorites!