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This is the first of the sacraments to be administered usually
at a suitable time after the birth of a child. No other sacrament
can be administered until baptism has taken place.
The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and the priest.
In the Latin Church the deacon also can baptize. In case of necessity
any person can baptize provided he has the intention of doing
what the Church does. This is done by pouring water on the head
of the candidate while saying the Trinitarian formula for Baptism:
“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit”.
Everyone who is to be baptized is required to make a profession
of faith. This is done personally in the case of an adult or by
the parents and by the Church in the case of infants. Also the
godfather or the godmother and the whole ecclesial community share
the responsibility for baptismal preparation (catechumenate) as
well as for the development and safeguarding of the faith and
grace given at baptism.
The name is important because God knows each of us by name, that
is, in our uniqueness as persons. In Baptism a Christian receives
his or her own name in the Church. It should preferably be the
name of a saint who might offer the baptized a model of sanctity
and an assurance of his or her intercession before God.
Baptism takes away original sin, all personal sins and all punishment
due to sin. It makes the baptized person a participant in the
divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace, the grace
of justification which incorporates one into Christ and into his
Church. It gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ and provides
the basis for communion with all Christians. It bestows the theological
virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A baptized person belongs
forever to Christ. He is marked with the indelible seal of Christ.
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It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens
baptismal grace. It is called Chrismation (in the Eastern Churches:
Anointing with holy myron or chrism) because the essential rite
of the sacrament is anointing with chrism.
The essential rite of Confirmation is the anointing with Sacred
Chrism (oil mixed with balsam and consecrated by the bishop),
which is done by the laying on of the hand of the minister who
pronounces the sacramental words proper to the rite. In the West
this anointing is done on the forehead of the baptized with the
words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
In the Eastern Churches of the Byzantine rite this anointing is
also done on other parts of the body with the words, “The
seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
The effect of Confirmation is a special outpouring of the Holy
Spirit like that of Pentecost. This outpouring impresses on the
soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace
of Baptism. It roots the recipient more deeply in divine sonship,
binds him more firmly to Christ and to the Church and reinvigorates
the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his soul. It gives a special strength
to witness to the Christian faith.
Only those already baptized can and should receive this sacrament
which can be received only once. To receive Confirmation efficaciously
the candidate must be in the state of grace.
The original minister of Confirmation is the bishop. In this way
the link between the confirmed and the Church in her apostolic
dimension is made manifest. When a priest confers this sacrament,
as ordinarily happens in the East and in special cases in the
West, the link with the bishop and with the Church is expressed
by the priest who is the collaborator of the bishop and by the
Sacred Chrism, consecrated by the bishop himself.
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The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the
Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of
the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory. Thus
he entrusted to his Church this memorial of his death and Resurrection.
It is a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet, in
which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a
pledge of future glory is given to us.
After careful preparation children are usually presented for their
"first Holy Communion" at about primary 4.
Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday “the night
on which he was betrayed” as he celebrated the Last Supper
with his apostles.
After he had gathered with his apostles in the Cenacle, Jesus
took bread in his hands. He broke it and gave it to them saying,
“Take this and eat it, all of you; this is my Body which
will be given up for you”. Then, he took the cup of wine
in his hands and said, “Take this and drink of this, all
of you. This is the cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and
everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that
sins may be forgive. Do this in memory of me”.
The celebrant of the Eucharist is a validly ordained priest (bishop
or priest) who acts in the Person of Christ the Head and in the
name of the Church.
The essential elements are wheat bread and grape wine.
Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable
way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his
Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist,
therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under
the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire,
God and Man.
The Church recommends that the faithful, if they have the required
dispositions, receive Holy Communion whenever they participate
at Holy Mass. However, the Church obliges them to receive Holy
Communion at least once a year during the Easter season.
To receive Holy Communion one must be fully incorporated into
the Catholic Church and be in the state of grace, that is, not
conscious of being in mortal sin. Anyone who is conscious of having
committed a grave sin must first receive the sacrament of Reconciliation
before going to Communion. Also important for those receiving
Holy Communion are a spirit of recollection and prayer, observance
of the fast prescribed by the Church, and an appropriate disposition
of the body (gestures and dress) as a sign of respect for Christ.
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Since the new life of grace received in Baptism does not abolish
the weakness of human nature nor the inclination to sin (that
is, concupiscence), Christ instituted this sacrament for the conversion
of the baptized who have been separated from him by sin.
The risen Lord instituted this sacrament on the evening of Easter
when he showed himself to his apostles and said to them, “Receive
the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The essential elements are two: the acts of the penitent who comes
to repentance through the action of the Holy Spirit, and the absolution
of the priest who in the name of Christ grants forgiveness and
determines the ways of making satisfaction.
They are: a careful examination of conscience; contrition (or
repentance), which is perfect when it is motivated by love of
God and imperfect if it rests on other motives and which includes
the determination not to sin again; confession, which consists
in the telling of one’s sins to the priest; and satisfaction
or the carrying out of certain acts of penance which the confessor
imposes upon the penitent to repair the damage caused by sin.
All grave sins not yet confessed, which a careful examination
of conscience brings to mind, must be brought to the sacrament
of Penance. The confession of serious sins is the only ordinary
way to obtain forgiveness.
Each of the faithful who has reached the age of discretion is
bound to confess his or her mortal sins at least once a year and
always before receiving Holy Communion.
The confession of venial sins is strongly recommended by the Church,
even if this is not strictly necessary, because it helps us to
form a correct conscience and to fight against evil tendencies.
It allows us to be healed by Christ and to progress in the life
of the Spirit.
Christ has entrusted the ministry of Reconciliation to his apostles,
to the bishops who are their successors and to the priests who
are the collaborators of the bishops, all of whom become thereby
instruments of the mercy and justice of God. They exercise their
power of forgiving sins in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect
due to people every confessor, without any exception and under
very severe penalties, is bound to maintain “the sacramental
seal” which means absolute secrecy about the sins revealed
to him in confession.
The effects of the sacrament of Penance are: reconciliation with
God and therefore the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with
the Church; recovery, if it has been lost, of the state of grace;
remission of the eternal punishment merited by mortal sins, and
remission, at least in part, of the temporal punishment which
is the consequence of sin; peace, serenity of conscience and spiritual
consolation; and an increase of spiritual strength for the struggle
of Christian living.
In cases of serious necessity (as in imminent danger of death)
recourse may be had to a communal celebration of Reconciliation
with general confession and general absolution, as long as the
norms of the Church are observed and there is the intention of
individually confessing one’s grave sins in due time.
Indulgences are the remission before God of the temporal punishment
due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. The faithful
Christian who is duly disposed gains the indulgence under prescribed
conditions for either himself or the departed. Indulgences are
granted through the ministry of the Church which, as the dispenser
of the grace of redemption, distributes the treasury of the merits
of Christ and the Saints.
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of the sick:
The compassion of Jesus toward the sick and his many healings
of the infirm were a clear sign that with him had come the Kingdom
of God and therefore victory over sin, over suffering, and over
death. By his own passion and death he gave new meaning to our
suffering which, when united with his own, can become a means
of purification and of salvation for us and for others.
Having received from the Lord the charge to heal the sick, the
Church strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick and
accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. Above all,
the Church possesses a sacrament specifically intended for the
benefit of the sick. This sacrament was instituted by Christ and
is attested by Saint James: “Is anyone among you sick? Let
him call in the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over
him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord”
Any member of the faithful can receive this sacrament when he
or she is ill or as soon as he or she begins to be in danger of
death because of old age. The faithful who receive this sacrament
can receive it several times if their illness becomes worse or
another serious sickness afflicts them. The celebration of this
sacrament should, if possible, be preceded by individual confession
on the part of the sick person.
This sacrament can be administered only by priests (bishops or
The celebration of this sacrament consists essentially in an anointing
with oil which may be blessed by the bishop. The anointing is
on the forehead and on the hands of the sick person (in the Roman
rite) or also on other parts of the body (in the other rites)
accompanied by the prayer of the priest who asks for the special
grace of this sacrament.
This sacrament confers a special grace which unites the sick person
more intimately to the Passion of Christ for his good and for
the good of all the Church. It gives comfort, peace, courage,
and even the forgiveness of sins if the sick person is not able
to make a confession. Sometimes, if it is the will of God, this
sacrament even brings about the restoration of physical health.
In any case this Anointing prepares the sick person for the journey
to the Father’s House.
Viaticum is the Holy Eucharist received by those who are about
to leave this earthly life and are preparing for the journey to
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Holy Orders 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.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is composed of three degrees which
are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: the
episcopate, the presbyterate and the diaconate.
Episcopal ordination confers the fullness of the sacrament of
Holy Orders. It makes the bishop a legitimate successor of the
apostles and integrates him into the episcopal college to share
with the Pope and the other bishops care for all the churches.
It confers on him the offices of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling.
The bishop to whom the care of a particular Church is entrusted
is the visible head and foundation of unity for that Church. For
the sake of that Church, as vicar of Christ, he fulfills the office
of shepherd and is assisted by his own priests and deacons.
The anointing of the Spirit seals the priest with an indelible,
spiritual character that configures him to Christ the priest and
enables him to act in the name of Christ the Head. As a co-worker
of the order of bishops he is consecrated to preach the Gospel,
to celebrate divine worship, especially the Eucharist from which
his ministry draws its strength, and to be a shepherd of the faithful.
A priest, although ordained for a universal mission, exercises
his ministry in a particular Church. This ministry is pursued
in sacramental brotherhood with other priests who form the “presbyterate”.
In communion with the bishop, and depending upon him, they bear
responsibility for the particular Church.
The deacon, configured to Christ the servant of all, is ordained
for service to the Church. He carries out this service under the
authority of his proper bishop by the ministry of the Word, of
divine worship, of pastoral care and of charity.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred, in each of its three
degrees, by means of the imposition of hands on the head of the
ordinand by the Bishop who pronounces the solemn prayer of consecration.
With this prayer he asks God on behalf of the ordinand for the
special outpouring of the Holy Spirit and for the gifts of the
Spirit proper to the ministry to which he is being ordained.
Only validly ordained bishops, as successors of the apostles,
can confer the sacrament of Holy Orders.
This sacrament can only be validly received by a baptized man.
The Church recognizes herself as bound by this choice made by
the Lord Himself. No one can demand to receive the sacrament of
Holy Orders, but must be judged suitable for the ministry by the
authorities of the Church.
The marital union of man and woman, which is founded and endowed
with its own proper laws by the Creator, is by its very nature
ordered to the communion and good of the couple and to the generation
and education of children. According to the original divine plan
this conjugal union is indissoluble, as Jesus Christ affirmed:
“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder”.
Christ not only restored the original order of matrimony but raised
it to the dignity of a sacrament, giving spouses a special grace
to live out their marriage as a symbol of Christ’s love
for his bride the Church: “Husbands, love your wives as
Christ loves the Church”.
Since Matrimony establishes spouses in a public state of life
in the Church, its liturgical celebration is public, taking place
in the presence of a priest (or of a witness authorized by the
Church) and other witnesses.
Matrimonial consent is given when a man and a woman manifest the
will to give themselves to each other irrevocably in order to
live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love. Since consent constitutes
Matrimony, it is indispensable and irreplaceable. For a valid
marriage the consent must have as its object true Matrimony, and
be a human act which is conscious and free and not determined
by duress or coercion.
The sacrament of Matrimony establishes a perpetual and exclusive
bond between the spouses. God himself seals the consent of the
spouses. Therefore, a marriage which is ratified and consummated
between baptized persons can never be dissolved. Furthermore,
this sacrament bestows upon the spouses the grace necessary to
attain holiness in their married life and to accept responsibly
the gift of children and provide for their education.
The information on this page has been adapted from:
"The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church"
For a full presentation visit the Vatican