The Seven Sacraments

What is a sacrament?

"A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (BC 304)

In brief, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) summarizes the definition of a sacrament:

· The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. (CCC 1131)

· The Church celebrates the sacraments as a priestly community structured by the baptismal priesthood and the priesthood of ordained ministers. (CCC 1132)

· The Holy Spirit prepares the faithful for the sacraments by the Word of God and the faith which welcomes that word in well-disposed hearts. Thus the sacraments strengthen faith and express it. (CCC 1133)

· The fruit of sacramental life is both personal and ecclesial. For every one of the faithful on the one hand, this fruit is life for God in Christ Jesus; for the Church, on the other, it is an increase in charity and in her mission of witness. (CCC 1134)

St. Thomas Aquinas sums up the various aspects of sacramental signs:

Therefore a sacrament is a sign that commemorates what precedes it - Christ's Passion; demonstrates what is accomplished in us through Christ's Passion - grace; and prefigures what that Passion pledges to us - future glory. (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 60, 3)