Sacraments and Worship . . .
Sacraments are saving acts of Jesus Christ which point us to the forgiveness and mercy of God. Sacraments are acts by which we receive the Spirit of Christ and so are formed in the image of Christ as He emerged from the tomb with new life. In most sacraments the Church uses material symbols such as wine, bread, oil and water, as a vehicle for the Holy Spirit so that the sacraments are outward signs of inward spiritual grace. For example, at the Eucharist we receive what appears to be bread and wine but which is in reality the Body and Blood of Christ.
‘The purpose of each of the sacraments is to sanctify (to make holy), to build up the Body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God’. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium)
The 7 Sacraments of the Catholic Church are grouped as follows:
A bishop or a priest is the usual minister of the sacraments. A deacon may be authorized to confer baptism and any lay person may baptise another in the case of emergency. The Sacrament of Matrimony is conferred, one upon the other, by the couple marrying each other, not by the minister present who may be either a priest or deacon.
In the days of the infant Church the un-baptised converts were known as Catechumens. After a suitable period of instruction the Catechumens were welcomed as full members of the Christian Community, at Easter, when they received the three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. In more recent years, post Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) was established for the benefit of those wishing to become Catholics. They follow a period of formation through the RCIA, similar to that undertaken by the early-Church converts. At the Vigil Mass of Easter the Catechumens receive Baptism; those already validly baptised are received into the Church, they are then Confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time.
Every baptised person is called upon to be a herald of the gospel. At our confirmation we are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to profess our Christian faith. For those who are married or ordained an abundance of graces are available to help us, in our respective vocations, to serve and love God, each other and the wider community. If we are unwell, aged or approaching the end of our lives, we may receive healing and strength from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. When, through human frailty, we stray away from the Lord his forgiveness can be found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Above all is the Holy Eucharist, ‘true centre of the whole Christian life’. In Holy Communion we receive the same Lord Jesus who said that if we did not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood we would not have life within us.