The Sacraments of the Catholic Church

A sacrament is an encounter with Christ. It has a visible aspect—such as the pouring of water in Baptism—and it has an invisible or inner aspect—the action of Christ called grace. The name, sacrament, comes from a Latin word meaning sign.

A sacrament is a visible sign that has an invisible effect; therefore, each sacrament has a visible aspect that is seen by the senses and an invisible aspect, referred to as grace, that makes people holy and empowers them to do good. Sacraments are religious ceremonies that use visible signs that give invisible grace from God.

These signs of grace were instituted by Christ and were entrusted to the Church.

There are seven sacraments, and each has a definite purpose:

Baptism… entering the gateway to life in the Spirit
Eucharist… consuming spiritual nourishment for life
Confirmation… completing initiation into spiritual life
Reconciliation… forgiving and healing the spirit
Anointing of the Sick… providing forgiveness and healing to the sick
Marriage… establishing a couples’ life and love commitment
Holy Orders… committing to ministry and service

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) defines sacraments as “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit” (CCC #1131).

In summary, sacraments:

Are visible signs.
Cause the invisible effect they signify.
Convey grace, and the grace of each sacrament has a particular focus.
Were instituted by Christ.
Require a proper disposition in the recipient.
Bring responsibilities and opportunities to the recipient.


St. Mary Basilica