The seven sacraments play a huge role in the Catholic faith. However, many non-Catholics and even Catholics alike don’t know what they are and what they mean. So in this article, let’s discuss each one and find out why they’re so important for every Catholic.
The 7 Catholic sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Marriage. These are divided into 3 categories: Initiation, Healing, and Service of Communion. Each one is received at different times, depending on where you are on your journey in life.
Let’s elaborate on each of these 7 sacraments below and find out when they should be received.
What are the Catholic Seven Sacraments?
Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Marriage are the seven Catholic sacraments. These are divided into three categories, which are the following:
Sacraments of Initiation
The 3 sacraments of initiation are Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist. These are intended to help strengthen your faith and get you closer to God. They are also necessary to become a member of the Catholic Church. You can find this in the Code of Canon Law (#842, §2), which says: “The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the most Holy Eucharist are interrelated in such a way that they are required for full Christian initiation”.
Now, to help you understand these 3 sacraments better, here’s a brief discussion on each one.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1213): “Holy baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church, and made sharers in her mission.”
So before you can receive the other sacraments, you must first be baptized. This will unite you with Christ and the Church. Moreover, it will free you from the original sin. This can only be received once and for many Catholics, it happens shortly after their birth. However, adults and children 7 years old and above can also request to be baptized and become a Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).
“The sacrament of confirmation strengthens the baptized and obliges them more firmly to be witnesses of Christ by word and deed and to spread and defend the faith…” (Code of Canon Law #879)
As its name suggests, this sacrament intends to “confirm” the baptized individual in the faith and fully bring him/her into the Church. Like baptism, this is a sacrament that you can only receive once. Normally, it is received at around the age of 13. But it can also be celebrated as early as 7 years old for those who were baptized as infants. For adults converting to Catholics, the sacrament of confirmation is performed immediately after baptism.
- Holy Eucharist
“The Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1322)
This is a sacrament that can be received repeatedly, even daily if you want. In fact, according to the Code of Canon Law (#917): “A person who has already received the most holy eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the eucharistic celebration in which the person participates…”
Now, every Catholic who has been baptized and has been administered the sacrament before is required to receive it “at least once a year”, according to the Code of Canon Law (#920). This is under the condition that you are not aware of any grave sin you’ve committed.
The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is at the center of the Catholic liturgy. Through it, we can receive Jesus Christ and get closer to Him. This also grants us God’s grace and cleanses us from our venial sins. Furthermore, it nourishes our need for love while at the same time, giving us the strength to nourish others. Aside from that, the Holy Eucharist is an important sacrament as it reminds us of the suffering of Christ to save us from our sins.
That said, baptized children usually have their first holy communion around 7 or 8 years old right after their first confession, which is the sacrament of penance.
Sacraments of Healing
The two sacraments of healing are the Anointing of the Sick and Penance, which shows and celebrates the healing power and mercy of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a closer look at both of these sacraments below.
- Penance or Reconciliation
In this sacrament, you can confess and repent for your sins, which then allows you to free yourself from them. Moreover, it can help you mend your relationship not only with God but also with the Church whom you’ve hurt with your sins. And since this is one way for your sins to be forgiven, it encourages you to forgive those who have wronged you as well.
This is another sacrament that you can receive as many times as needed. Some make it their weekly habit before receiving the Eucharist, and others go through it during Lent or Advent. The Church, however, says that: “After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.” (Code of Canon Law #989)
- Anointing of the Sick
From the Code of Canon Law #998: “The anointing of the sick, by which the Church commends the faithful who are dangerously ill to the suffering and glorified Lord in order that he relieve and save them…”
This is a sacrament that can be given to those who are seriously sick and suffering to give them strength and comfort. By anointing their forehead and hands while the priest says his blessing, the individual is also able to unite his/her suffering with Jesus’ passion.
An individual can receive the sacrament of anointing the sick as many times as needed. This can also be held at home or in a hospital. However, only a priest can administer it.
Sacraments of Service of Communion
Depending on the vocation that you might find yourself in, you may celebrate either the sacraments of Holy Orders or Matrimony, also called marriage. While they may seem absolutely different, with one marrying another person and the other marrying the Church, these two sacraments of service of communion are actually pretty similar. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1534) explains this, saying:
“Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God.”
That said, both of these sacraments help ensure that the individuals receiving them will serve and help grow the church.
In the sacrament of marriage, a baptized man and woman vow to each other a lifelong partnership that can’t be broken. They also enter a promise with the Lord to welcome children and raise them in the Catholic faith. Furthermore, it is through this sacrament that the couple’s relationship is strengthened and blessed by the grace of God.
- Holy Orders
Finally, the 7th sacrament is the Holy Orders, which is available only to men who choose to become priests, deacons, or bishops. Through this sacrament, they can perform their sacred duties and serve the community.