The seven sacraments of the Church

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The seven sacraments of the Church

  • 25
  • WEYDEN, Rogier van der
  • Seven Sacraments Altarpiece
  • 1445-50
  • Oil on oak panel
  • Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp
  • ©Fr. Mark Emman H. Sese

Compendium of the Catechism

  • 224. What are the sacraments and which are they?
  • 1113-1131
  • The sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses . Through them divine life is bestowed upon us. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.


  • God instituted the physical signs that we call sacraments, in order to express the supernatural realities of grace:
    • we are born to supernatural life through Baptism,
    • we are strengthened by Confirmation,
    • we are sustained by the food of the Eucharist,
    • we recover the supernatural life lost by sin through Penance,
    • and we make ready for the journey that will end up in heaven through the Anointing of the Sick.
    • Holy Orders provide ministers for the Church,
    • and Matrimony, from which children are born to perpetuate human society and, when regenerated by baptism, make the Church grow.

Main ideas

  • ©Fr. Mark Emman H. Sese

1. What are the sacraments?

  • The sacraments are physical and efficacious signs of grace instituted by Jesus Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.
    • A physical sign is something apparent which reveals something hidden; if I see smoke, I discover that there is a fire.
    • But we also say efficacious sign, because the sacrament not only signifies but also produces grace (smoke only points to the existence of fire but does not produce fire).
  • CARPACCIO, Vittore (1450-1525)
  • The Baptism of the Selenites
  • Tempera on canvas, 1502-1507
  • (141 x 285 cm)
  • Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice

2. Why were the sacraments instituted?

  • Christ wanted to adapt Himself to our nature, bestowing divine gifts on us through the material things we use, so that it would be easier for us to receive those gifts.
  • The humanity of Christ is the instrument united to His divinity used to carry out the redemption of mankind. In the same way, the sacraments are the instruments separated from His divinity through which God sanctifies us, adapting Himself to our nature and understanding.
  • POUSSIN, Nicolas
  • The Sacrament of Ordination
  • 1636-40
  • Oil on canvas
  • Collection of the Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle

3. Jesus Christ instituted the seven sacraments

  • All the sacraments have been instituted by Jesus Christ –who is the author of grace and can communicate it through physical signs. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments meet all the needs of the spiritual life of Christians.
  • POUSSIN, Nicolas
  • The Seven Sacraments: Marriage
  • 1647-48
  • Oil on canvas, 117 x 178 cm
  • National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

4. The sacraments of the Church

  • Christ entrusted the sacraments to His Church and we can say that they are “of the Church” in a double sense:
    • the Church makes or administers or celebrates the sacraments,
    • the sacraments make the Church (for example, baptism generates new faithful for the Church).
  • Sacraments therefore are dispensed by the Church and for the Church.
  • POUSSIN, Nicolas
  • The Seven Sacraments: Eucharist
  • 1647
  • Oil on canvas
  • National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

5. The sacraments of faith

  • The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ, –that is, the Church– and, finally, to worship God.
  • In so far as they are signs, they also have a teaching dimension. They not only presuppose faith, but also strengthen it, nourish it and express it through words and actions. That is why they are called the sacraments of faith.
  • The Miracle of the Holy Sacrament
  • 1423
  • The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham
  • UK

6. Effects of the sacraments

  • The sacraments, if received with the required dispositions, produce the following effects :
    • Sanctifying grace: The sacraments confer or increase sanctifying grace.
    • Sacramental grace: As Christians, we have the right to receive from God at the appropriate time the necessary help to fulfil the duties upon receiving that sacrament.
    • Character. Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders also confer character, which is a spiritual and indelible “seal” that brings about a particular sharing in the priesthood of Christ.

7. What does a sacrament consist of?

  • A sacrament consists of matter, form and the minister who performs it with the intention of doing what the Church does.
    • Matter is the physical reality or action, such as natural water in baptism or the acts of the penitent in the sacrament of penance (contrition, confession and atonement).
    • Form consists of the words uttered in order to perform the sacrament.
    • Minister is the person who performs or administers the sacrament.

8. Diversity of sacraments

  • Sacraments can be divided into three groups :
    • Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
    • Sacraments of healing: Penance and Anointing of the Sick.
    • Sacraments for the service of the community: Holy Orders and Matrimony.

9. The sacraments are necessary for salvation

  • If we are to live a Christian life, the sacraments are not only important but also necessary.
  • The sacraments invariably confer grace if they are received with the appropriate dispositions. If we don’t receive more grace, we should not blame the sacrament for it, but our lack of proper preparation.
  • Christians should endeavour to receive the sacraments with the best attitude they can, so as to receive grace abundantly.
  • The Miracle of the Holy Sacrament
  • 1423
  • The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, UK

Resolutions for Christian life

  • ©Fr. Mark Emman H. Sese

Resolutions to move forward

  • Thank Our Lord for the institution of the seven sacraments and show that we appreciate it by preparing very well to receive them.
  • Receive often the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.

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