Sacraments

The sacraments are visible signs that keep us connected with Christ. They are of the spiritual realm but made visible in the physical realm so that they may be perceived by our senses, whether by touch, taste, smell, sight or hearing. They are efficacious by nature, meaning they work spiritual graces within us, transforming us closer to God. There are seven sacraments instituted by Christ: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist (called the Sacraments of Christian Initiation); Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick (called the Sacraments of Healing); and Matrimony and Holy Orders (called the Sacraments of Christian Service).

SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION

BAPTISM

The first sacrament is Baptism. We cannot receive the other sacraments without first receiving Baptism because Baptism makes us sharers in the divine life and orders us towards worship as a community of believers. Baptism makes the person a Christian, a follower of Christ. Christ himself sanctified the waters in the Jordan, through his own baptism, to sanctify us in him. A number of graces occur in Baptism. Jesus, our savior, came to heal us from our sins. In Baptism, we are forgiven of all previous sins, including the sin inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, from which came The Fall (The Great Separation). Christ came to restore that union once lost in Paradise. With Christ, in accordance with his commandments, we can once again be united with him in Paradise. Like the crucified thief, we should all have the innate desire to hear these words spoken to us by Christ: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (cf. Lk 23:43).

In Baptism we are clothed in Christ, represented by the white garments worn during the ceremony as a symbol of our shared redemption in Christ. The waters of baptism remind us of the Great Flood that purified the earth during the time of Noah as well as the floodwaters of the Red Sea, which saved the Israelites from the Egyptians. Like the Flood, the waters of Baptism purify us and free us from the slavery of sin (cf. 1 Pt 3:18-22). In Baptism we die in Christ and rise with him as a new creature, joining in his redemption as part of the New and Everlasting Covenant (cf. Rm 6:1-11). By being baptized, we undertake the Divine Command of going out “to the whole world” and “proclaiming the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15). In baptism we become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father and we are united with Christ as his brothers and sisters, which makes us priests (to make sacrifice and offer right worship to God), prophets (to proclaim the Gospel) and kings (to share in God’s kingship as his sons and daughters).

Understanding the Faith & the Challenges of Today, Fr. Michael Garcia

FOR INFANTS

Requirements for choosing Godparents:

Must be a practicing Catholic with all sacraments of initiation. If married, must be married within the Catholic Church.
• Each child is required to have one or two Sponsors (if two, one of each sex)
• Godparents are appointed by the parents of the child
• Be 16 years of age or older
• Cannot be the father or mother
• Must submit a letter of good standing from their home parish

FOR ADULTS (RCIA):

Requirements for choosing Sponsors:

Must be a practicing Catholic with all sacraments of initiation. If married, must be married within the Catholic Church.
• Each candidate is required to have one or two Sponsors (if two, one of each sex)
• Sponsors are appointed by the candidate
• Be 16 years of age or older
• Cannot be the father or mother

COMMUNION

The celebration of the Eucharist, in which we receive Holy Communion (the consecrated host known as the Blessed Sacrament), is the “source and summit of the Christian life”. Although Baptism makes us Christians, and Confirmation makes us more configured to Christ, the Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. In the Eucharist we are fully united with Christ because Christ himself is sacramentally present in body, blood, soul and divinity. The Eucharist is made present in the Mass as bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that the Mass is the most perfect expression of Christian liturgy. Jesus instituted this sacrament at his last supper when he said: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19). Jesus made it absolutely clear that, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:53). The Israelites were fed in the desert with bread from heaven, but the bread Jesus offers, i.e. his own flesh, gives everlasting life. He is the true bread from heaven.

The Mass is literally the Last Supper made manifest again. The priest, in the person of Christ, becomes both priest and victim.  The body of Jesus is once again broken and given to his disciples as a memorial of his death. As partakers of his body and blood we become intimately united with Christ himself, both in flesh and in spirit. This is Jesus’ way of remaining in us. As he himself said: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn 14:18). It is for this reason that before one receives the Holy Eucharist, which literally means “thanksgiving,” one should be disposed with a pure heart and approach with great reverence.

Too often many people receive the Eucharist immodestly and with an impure heart. It is for this reason that it is highly recommended to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to receiving Holy Communion, especially in cases of mortal sin. Recall Jesus’ instruction before offering sacrifice to the altar: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:24). In other words, leave all misdeeds, quarrels and sinful acts behind before approaching the altar of God. As St. Paul tells us: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).

The celebration of the Eucharist is many times described as the “Heavenly Banquet” and rightly so, for at that precise moment heaven and earth indeed meet. It is for this reason that after one has seriously considered the state of their spiritual being one should present themselves modestly in a way which does not detract attention from where attention is rightly due. Recall the parable of the wedding feast:

And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth’ (Mt 22:10-13).

Although all are invited to the Heavenly Banquet, not all are properly or modestly disposed to receive the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. When I speak of modesty I am not simply referring to what someone wears, but more importantly, I am speaking of “spiritual modesty,” i.e. to be clothed in humility. Through his sacrifice we have been privileged, not entitled, to receive this gift from heaven. Should we not, therefore, approach with the utmost reverence? We, as Catholics, are by our very nature a “Eucharistic people.” Look at what J.R.R. Tolkien had to say about the Eucharist: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth…”

Understanding the Faith & the Challenges of Today, Fr. Michael Garcia

• Must be baptized Catholic, or a candidate upon completion of the RCIA program

CONFIRMATION

The sacrament of Confirmation usually occurs before first Holy Communion for those adults who are being initiated into the faith, but for those who are already baptized Christians in the Latin Church, Confirmation usually follows after first Holy Communion. Although the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments,” Confirmation strengthens the Christian in the Spirit. In fact, Confirmation completes the graces received in Baptism: “For ‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed’”. In other words, with the reception of Confirmation, we receive the title of “Defender of the Faith,” which is no small title.

Confirmation fulfills Jesus’ will of us being anointed in him by the Holy Spirit, which from the times of the Apostles, has always been associated with the laying-on of hands. Jesus promised his disciples that those who seek him would be given the Father’s seal (cf. Jn 6:27). As Paul the Apostle tells us, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit for the sake of our redemption, as Jesus promised, because we believed in his message, the Gospel (cf. Eph 4:30; 1:13).  Along with the laying of hands, sacred chrism is used to anoint the individual in Christ. In fact, the word Christian means “anointed” because we now share in the same Spirit that anointed Jesus. With this mark, or seal, that the Holy Spirit gives us, we are granted seven gifts to strengthen our lives as Christians. These gifts are:  the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage (also referred to as fortitude), the spirit of knowledge and reverence, and the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence, which helps us seek and recognize the good and avoid the evil. These gifts grow every time a person does God’s will, and they prepare us for the calling that God has in each and every one of us, whether it’s the married life or consecrated life.

Understanding the Faith & the Challenges of Today, Fr. Michael Garcia

• Must be baptized Catholic, or a candidate upon completion of the RCIA program

SACRAMENTS OF HEALING

RECONCILIATION & ANOINTING OF THE SICK

Even after our baptism, we are still inclined to sin because of our human nature (concupiscence), which is why Jesus instituted the sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession, and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Both these sacraments bring healing and salvation. When we sin we sometimes do not know the full nature or implications that come with this or that particular “offense” in regards to our relationship with God, because as human beings, we are limited in understanding and we fail to see the extent we wrong God. It is not to say that we do not know when we commit evil, because it is necessary to know the act to be evil for it to be a sin. However, because of our lack of understanding, most people do not definitively choose to turn away from God. Ignorance is not a sin, but willfully choosing to remain in ignorance in fear that it might challenge us to change our lives, is. A definitive separation from God out of pure spite, which is voluntary, volitional, and bears full knowledge of its implications, is incapable of receiving pardon because the person, likewise, is incapable of asking for forgiveness so long as he or she remains obstinate. This sin against God himself is the sin of malice (odium inimicitiae), which is directly tied with the sin of pride. It is for this reason that the demons, because of the kind of knowledge they possess of God and His Will, can never ask for pardon, nor seek it. This is often called the perturbation of angels.

Luckily most of us do not intentionally seek eternal separation from God when we sin. In the sacrament of Reconciliation we confess our sins to a priest, who is at that moment Christ himself. He is the mediator between God and humanity. Many ask, “Why must we confess our sins to a priest? Why can’t we confess to God directly?” The answer lies in scripture itself. Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus himself gave authority to his apostles to forgive sins when he breathed the Holy Spirit on them and said: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23). Remember that prior to this sins were only forgiven through the blood of an animal as a scapegoat. As the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for our sins, Jesus establishes a new way for us to obtain forgiveness. Therefore, in the sacrament of reconciliation, priests fulfill Jesus’ command to forgive the sins of those who are truly sorry, and retain the sins of those who are not. Thus, in the sacrament of reconciliation we become a clean slate, which recalls the cleansing waters of our baptism. Plus, nowhere in scripture – and that includes both the Old Testament and the New Testament – does it say that confessing your sins to God is a private occasion, so the argument that a person can confess their sins directly to God is actually anti-scriptural.

During moments of illness, the Church provides the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, which like Confession, also removes sin. Every miracle that Jesus performed on a sick person pointed to a greater healing – a healing of the soul and an ease of the conscience. In Jesus’ day, people believed they were born blind, or made a leper, or a paralytic because of some sin they or their parents had committed. Imagine being told your whole life that the reason you are sick is because of a shameful act that has now come to define who you are. Jesus, as the Divine Physician, healed both body and soul. By accompanying the physical miracle with the words, “your sins are forgiven,” Jesus removes the shame that those poor individuals had to endure for all their lives. Similarly, Anointing of the Sick is forgiveness that initiates healing. In his compassion for all those who are sick and suffering, Jesus tells his apostles to heal the sick (cf. Lk 9:2), and the Church continues to follow that command through their successors.

Understanding the Faith & the Challenges of Today, Fr. Michael Garcia

Reconciliation:

• Must be baptized Catholic, or a candidate upon completion of the RCIA program

Anointing of the sick:

• A baptized Catholic suffering from illness or who is about to undergo surgery

SACRAMENTS OF SERVICE

MATRIMONY

The Sacrament of MATRIMONY is “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”   ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church 1601

For Sacramental marriages:

• At least one party must be Catholic and the other party must be a baptized Christian
• Both parties must submit recent baptismal certificates
• Both parties must complete the marriage prep process

For marriage prep process click here.

HOLY ORDERS

“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: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.” ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church 1536

• Must be a male baptized Catholic with all sacraments of initiation
• Priesthood: Must not be restricted by prior bond (married)

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