Below we offer a short, concise
introduction to the Sacraments in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is a SACRAMENTAL church, meaning that our sanctification comes
always through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but specifically through His
Mystical Body the Church and through the 7 channels of grace we call SACRAMENTS!
THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC) is
divided into the 4 parts; one of these is on the Sacraments.
The Sacraments were instituted by
Jesus Christ Himself.
They are 7 in number; none will be
added nor subtracted!
Sacramentals, on the other hand, were
instituted by the church and there are many; still, there can be added new
DEFINITION: “A Sacrament is an external sign instituted
by Christ to communicate grace.” -- Classical
Protestant churches—the mainline—would have
two: Baptism and Holy Matrimony.
The Sacraments can be divided into
three separate categories: a) The Sacraments of Initiation which are Baptism,
Holy Communion, and Confirmation. Upon receiving these three one should be a
mature adult in the faith; b) Sacraments of Healing which are the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick; c) Finally,
the last category of Sacraments as divided
in traditional terms, are the Sacraments of service and they are Holy Orders and Holy
Matrimony. There we have it!
The Sacraments are “Powerhouses” of
grace. As electricity--- watts and
volts—have power to enlighten and transmit energy on a natural plane, so are
the sacraments on a supernatural plane able to transmit and communicate
powerful spiritual energy that we call “grace”.
Sacramentals and prayers and novenas
and litanies and pilgrimages and even exorcisms have great value; however, the
graces communicated through the sacramental system are infinitely more
powerful, like the difference between children playing Little-League baseball
and the Major Leagues. Therefore, we
should take advantage of the spiritual “Powerhouses” that are at our disposal.
10.FREE OF CHARGE! God’s gift through the sacraments is
absolutely free for our picking and taking, like a treasure-chest filled with
diamonds and rubies and gold in which the owner gave you permission to dig in
and take as much as your heart desired!
How foolish not to take as much as we desire!
11.FAITH! The primary condition is faith. Jesus would perform many miracles but upon
one very important condition: FAITH.
Faith indeed can move mountains!
Faith can raise the dead! Faith can transform lives!
12.DISPOSITIVE GRACE. Another key point in understanding the
Sacraments is that of “Dispositive grace”.
This theological principle states that we receive graces--- few or
many—in direct proportion to the disposition of our soul. The better the soul is disposed the more
abundant the graces. An example would be
the reception of Holy Communion. In one scenario a teenager is forced to come
to Mass on Sunday fighting with his siblings in the car on the way to Mass,
arrives late, is on his cell-phone texting during Mass, during Mass he is
thinking about what he will eat after Mass; finally, receives Holy Communion
without any thought and leaves Mass even before it is over. On the other hand a prayerful and pious
Mother comes to Mass 30 minutes early praying fervently before Mass for her
family, her own conversion, for the souls in Purgatory and loading the altar
with many intentions. (The movie: the Great Miracle). Every part of the Mass is
important to her and she is participating fully, actively and consciously.
(Vat. II, Sacrosanctum Concilium). As she approaches Holy Communion she humbly
begs the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for her so that she might make the most
fervent Holy Communion in her life. With
faith, reverence, humility, and love she receives Holy Communion: the Body,
Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. After Mass she stays to prolong her
thanksgiving, thanking and loving the Lord abundantly and praying the Rosary,
imploring the Blessed Virgin Mary to help her to offer due thanksgiving to the
Lord. These two scenarios are all too
common in the reception of the greatest of all Sacraments, the Most Holy
Eucharist. The teen receives the
Eucharist but with little or no benefit at all. The pious woman receives Holy
Communion and an explosion of grace and sanctification occurs in her heart and
soul. Where do you fall in these
scenarios? Probably in between the two extremes! Another even more marked
contrast would be Judas Iscariot receiving Holy Communion at the Last Supper,
rushing out into the night to betray Jesus; then imagine the Blessed Virgin
Mary receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus from the hands of the Apostle St.
John! One received unto his own
condemnation the other for her sanctification and that of the whole world!
13. PREPARATION. In sum it is of vital importance that the
Sacraments be properly prepared for and that they be received with the best of
dispositions. St. Paul, in his letter
to the Corinthians, warned them not to eat and drink the Body and Blood of the
Lord for their own condemnation, but to examine their consciences before they
approached the table of the Lord.
Catechists, parents, teachers, and priests must make a concerted effort
to attain a proper understanding and preparation for the sacraments. The well-known writer and teacher, Scott
Hahn, in one of his talks, compares the Sacraments to fire. Fire can be used for good purposes or can do
irreparable damage; fire can warm a freezing hiker or fire can burn down an
entire forest. Likewise the Sacraments—especially that of the Eucharist--- can
sanctify us immensely or be a cause for our perdition and condemnation! Let us
use this fire properly!
14. APPRECIATION AT ALL TIMES! We should constantly be aware of the danger,
with respect to the Sacraments, of taking them for granted. Especially this is
the case if one has easy access to multiple opportunities for daily Masses and
easy access and availability for the Sacrament of Confession. In the sacristies
of the nuns of Blessed Mother of Teresa of Calcutta there is a plack on the
wall that serves as a reminder to the priest—but this should be for all of
us—that reads as such: “Priest, man of God, say this Mass as if it were your
first Mass; your last Mass and your only Mass!” In other words, we must be
constantly on the watch to not lose our first love, as we are reminded in the
Book of Revelation!
15.MARY AND THE
SACRAMENTS! In the three famous Marian
approved Apparitions, Guadalupe, Lourdes
and Fatima, Mary asked that a church be built. Why? Because in the churches the SACRAMENTS are celebrated and offered to
the people of God, especially Confession and the Eucharist. Mary never
distances us from Jesus but always brings us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
truly present in every Holy Mass.