Sunday, May 14, 2017

Catholicism Explained: The Sacraments

So, I said I would try, didn't I? Well, this is me trying. I can only hope that these posts don't go completely wrong because of their frequent appearance. :) Today, I am discussing the Sacraments, a few of which have already been individually discussed. However, before I ship off the discussion, here are links to the previous CE posts, and to Miss Lucy Agnes' - the founder of this feature - blog, where the original Catholicism Explained posts can be found.
Catholicism Explained: Purgatory
Catholicism Explained: The Three Sacred Authorities
Catholicism Explained: Devotions and Sacramentals (Part I, What Are They?)
Catholicism Explained: Devotions and Sacramentals (Part II, The Origins Of)
Tanglewebs And Fairy Rings
Alright, now let's get to it! :D
A Sacrament, as defined by the Catholic Church, is an instituted sign of certain divine graces being bestowed. Here's a quote from the Catechism Of The Catholic Church on the matter:

"Sacraments are 'powers that come forth' from the Body of Christ [a.k.a., the Church], which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the holy spirit at work in his body, the Church. They are 'the masterworks of God' in the new and everlasting covenant."
- CCC, 1116 -
Basic Theology
So, in short, it's something that not only gives us grace from God, but is visible, so that we can know of those graces being given. These are very special things, Sacraments. They not only signify graces, but also carry out the graces that they represent. There are seven Sacraments, each with a special purpose. I'll go through them briefly today, and then do follow-up posts on each one separately (except in the case of it already having been covered by Miss Lucy).
Baptism is the very first Sacrament a Christian receives, and is the 'key', so to speak, that unlocks your ability to participate in the other Sacraments. It's like the door that you open to get into the Church. :)  It gives you the graces of a member of the Body of Christ, and also absolves any sins upon your soul at the time you are baptized. There are different ways of participating in the visible sign, though, while the actual spiritual goings-on always remains the same in the valid Sacrament. For instance, the three ways I have heard of for being baptized are these:
1. The anointing of the individual's head with Holy Water (generally most Baptisms are done by a priest, but a deacon is also permitted to do so).
2. The sprinkling of the individual with Holy Water.
3. The immersing of the individual in Holy Water.
All three of these are valid, assuming that the proper rites are observed. None is greater or more grace-giving than another, and all are true Baptism. Usually, in a Catholic parish we tend to use the first method, but the others can be used (and are from time to time). For instance, all of my seven siblings were baptized this way, and as was I. There are several 'little t' traditions and 'big T' Traditions surrounding Baptism, but as I said, I will speak on more on the Sacraments separately at a later date.
Reconciliation, also called the Sacrament of Penance, or Confession, is a Sacrament of immeasurable value. The graces it gives are those of absolution, or cleansing, which removes all trace of sin from the soul (like Baptism does, except you can receive this Sacrament as often as you need, whereas it is absolutely unallowed to receive Baptism more than once). The Sacrament of Reconciliation consists of a Christian confessing the sins that are upon his soul to a priest. The priest hears them, and, in God's name, absolves the person of those sins. The priest is only a mediator in the Sacrament, and is only there to be the forgiving mouth of Christ, and not as himself. Because it is a priest's job to bridge the distance between Christ and the faithful, it is only proper that this role in Reconciliation be fulfilled by a priest. This Sacrament will not receive a separate post, because Miss Lucy has already covered it most thoroughly here and here.
Holy Communion
Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, is the most important Sacrament of all. It is the transubstantiation of bread and wine into Christ's true Body and Blood. The faithful then receive His Body and Blood, under the guise of bread and wine. This Sacrament is what the Mass revolves around, and its Consecration is one of the great privileges of a priest. This, like Reconciliation, will not have its own separate post, because Miss Lucy has already done an incredibly job explaining it here and here.
This is the Sacrament that I have most recently received - the Sacrament of full initiation into the Catholic Church. You are a member when you are baptized, but when you are confirmed, you 'confirm' that you wish to be a part of the Church, you wish to serve it, and you wish to do as God commands. With this promise, you are initiated fully - as an adult in Christ, now responsible for your own soul and your own spiritual life in the Faith. This Sacrament bestows the graces of the Holy Spirit, called the fruits, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation, like Baptism, can only be received once in your life.
Matrimony, commonly called marriage, is one of the most beautiful Sacraments in my opinion. It bestows the grace of an unbreakable union between one man and one woman in God' sight, with His people as witnesses. It is for three purposes:
1. Procreation, to share in God's creative nature.
2. To share the most intimate, deep love that can be found within two human beings, enhanced in God's grace.
3. To aid both people in getting to Heaven, by each other's loving and spiritual help.
It is NOT for purpose of pleasure, lust, experiment, mere loneliness, or joke. Getting married for any of these reasons would be a horrendous crime against the Sacrament.
Holy Orders
This is the Sacrament that serves a similar purpose as marriage. However, instead of physical life-giving, the individual receiving the priesthood - or Holy Orders - has a duty of spiritual life-giving. In other words, he is to bring Christ's message to the world - to convert and save the life of all souls. The priesthood is a very hard vocation, and you can only receive it once in your life. The reason for this is that once you receive it, it cannot be undone. Once you are validly made a priest, you are a priest forever. However, there are cases where the priesthood is not valid, as in the case of female priests or unbaptized priests. Only baptized, fully in Communion, Catholic men can be priests in the Catholic Church.

Last Rites
Last Rites is a Sacrament only given to sick or dying faithful. It is only administered in the case where there is a possibility of death for the individual. It is a last Sacrament, meant to prepare one's soul for Heaven. It is only administered by a priest, and only to those who are sick or injured to the possibility of death.
Sealed... or Non-Sealed?
There are two types of Sacraments - those that have a spiritual seal, and those that don't. The ones that are sealed can only be received once, because to do otherwise would be against their nature (and Sacraments cannot be undone!). One that are not sealed can be received more than once, and some of them even are meant to be received often. These are the Sacraments that have a seal:
Holy Orders
And these are the Sacraments that can be received more than once (though they also are inerasable):
Holy Communion
Last Rites
Matrimony and Last Rites, though, can only be received a second time in special circumstances. For instance, Matrimony can only be received a second time if the first spouse is dead, and  Last Rites is received again on the occasion that you lived through your first possibly fatal injury/sickness (where you would have received Last Rites the first time), and then got another one (whereupon you would receive it again, see?).
Some Common Objections
Are you sure that they're even supposed to be taken as literal grace-giving things? What if they are just the sign, and not the fulfillment?
Sacraments are both sign and fulfillment. For instance, what would be the point of making a show of forgiving sin if they could not actually be forgiven? And would that seem rather unkind if sins couldn't be forgiven? And what would be the point of the Eucharist if all we were doing was pretending to receive Christ, while we were really just eating bread and drinking wine? Christ instituted the Eucharist so that we could still have Him even after he had gone up to Heaven. He would not leave us only play-acting, rather than truly Him. Don't you remember what he said at the Last Supper? This is my body, which is given for you. (Luke 22:19)
Why are the Sacraments so exclusive? Surely a person who lives like a Christian, but is not baptized, can receive the Eucharist? Or a woman receive the priesthood? Or an already-married person receive the Sacrament of Matrimony?
The Sacraments aren't exclusive! In fact, they are very inclusive. Any faithful Christian, living like a Christian, receives Baptism. And if it is not possible for them to receive Baptism, how is it possible for them to receive any other Sacrament? As for women becoming priests, we Christian women were perfectly happy not being priests  for long ages. Only with the feminist movement has any Christian woman started to consider the priesthood her 'right'. And feminism's core, to serve women and self, is exactly against the priesthood, which is to serve God. The priesthood is not a right. It is a gift from God, not a granted permit from men. Only men are gifted with the vocation to priesthood, because they are fulfilling the role of Christ - a man. However, women may be gifted with the vocation to religious life, which - excepting the role of Christ, which is the reason for only men priests anyways - has the same objective as the priesthood. And an already-married person cannot receive Matrimony. Matrimony involves making a vow to someone to stay with them as long as life will last. If they have already made this vow to a person, then it would be breaking a promise to them to remarry, and it would be lying to whom they wish to marry.
A Sacrament is an inerasable, both visible and fulfilling sign of God's grace given to His faithful. There are some which can only be received once, and there are some we may receive as often as every day. Some are for those just entered in the Church, and some are for those just about to enter Heaven. But all of them are important. They give us the grace to do what God wishes, and to avoid what He despises. They also can help us grow closer to Him, for they appeal to us in their visibility. I have received four. Others have received more. All I can say is that, in these troubling times, their value is immense to us, and they should never be abandoned. My only hope is that al the faithful can realize that.

What do you think? Are you perhaps also intrigued by the Sacraments? Or are you trying to learn about them? Was my post helpful? Any concerns? Debates? Additions? Comments? Anything at all is welcome, just so long as it is undemeaning, kind and well-meant. (P.S. Happy Mother's Day to everyone! And if any mothers are reading this, go listen to Il Divo's Mama today. It's a Mother's Day song if ever I've heard one, and so beautiful for all you lovely mamas.)


  1. Lovely post, Belle! I love the sacraments so much. :) The "Sealed" and "Non-Sealed" thing was interesting--I don't think I'd ever heard it put just that way before.

    1. Thanks! :)I heard it put that way by a priest when I was studying for Confirmation. He said that some Sacraments leave a sort-of 'seal' on you that could be undone, and now I think I've taken the metaphor quite to heart. :)