A central element of the life and growth of Catholics is their participation in the sacraments, rites and ceremonies that express the grace of God in the people of God, accompanying and shaping their spiritual growth as they progress through life.
A brief introduction is given below to each of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.
Baptism is the rite of initiation into the Church. Most frequently, Baptism occurs during the Sunday morning Mass. This enable the whole of the Parish to participate and welcome the person into the community of Christ. The sacrament may be administered to people of any age who wish full membership of the Church, and may also occur within the Mass or alongside other liturgical ceremonies, such as the conferring of the sacrament of Confirmation.
The sacrament of forgiveness, or reconciliation, and formally known also as confession or penance, provides an occasion for Catholics to acknowledge their sins and failings through the mediation of a priest. Where there is proper contrition for the faults acknowledged by the penitent, then the priest will pronounce a prayer of absolution that effects a full reconciliation with God and with the Church. As part of the reconciliatory process, the penitent is invited to offer prayers or perform some other act of discipline prescribed by the priest.
Communion, or the sacrament of the Eucharist, is an act of thanksgiving and participation in the consecrated bread and wine that takes place during the Holy Mass.
Confirmation is a public acknowledgement that a person wishes to participate fully in the life of the Church. In traditional Catholic practice, where new members of the Church are baptised as infants, Confirmation is normally bestowed during the teenage years, when the individual can make a conscious choice to affirm the Faith in which he or she has been raised. Usually the Bishop will confirm a group of individuals who have reached this stage of their spiritual lives. The celebration involves anointing with holy oils and the laying on of hands. The participant will also adopt a new name, usually of a saint of the Church, representing particular virtues or aspects of the spiritual life that are held to be most appropriate.
Marriage is the joining together in religious solemnity of two individuals to live together as one. It is a life-long union for mutual support and to provide a framework for raising a family.
The sacrament of Holy Orders, or ordination, is the induction into the priesthood of ministers who may celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments for the faithful.
The Sacrament of the Sick
The sacrament of anointing the sick involves a solemn anointing with oil of those who are gravely ill, for their spiritual strength in a time of physical duress.