In the Catholic Church, the sacraments are special celebrations which signify our life-long journey in relationship with God. The sacraments tell us about ourselves as persons with spirits, who respond to God’s grace, and tell us about how we, together, are to live out God’s call to make the world a place where God’s love, goodness, grace, justice, and mercy are always visible and present.
The sacraments all have roots in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament, and especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The sacraments mark our lives in community; therefore, every sacrament not only orients to Christ, but to others in our Catholic family. The sacraments celebrate God’s presence in our individual lives as well as our communal call to enact Jesus’ call to follow him, to be healers in the world, to be signs and instruments of love, mercy, and justice. They are all symbols of a journey in hope, and a sign that we are not on the journey alone.
The sacraments are symbolic actions and rituals that mark our covenantal relationship with God as individual beings and as beings together. They commemorate the past events of God’s relationship with humankind, they bring God’s grace into the present, and they point us to the promise of future glory.
Therefore, the life in sacrament is very special, because it allows us to say yes to God, and to say yes to the gift of being human. This begins with baptism, and is realized through the sacrament of anointing of the sick. The sacraments in between show us how different moments in life bring us deeper knowledge of this relationship.
There are three classifications of sacraments, each which tells us something about our journey in relationship to God:
Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. These sacraments celebrate the designation of one’s life, identity, and direction, toward God. They also help one to understand the importance of the help of others who believe the same things about this relationship and help us maintain our relationship with God, and who also collaborate in responding to Christ’s call to build a merciful and just world.
Sacraments of Healing: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. These sacraments remind us that we are frail and in need of God’s love to restore us to our fullest selves. They are sacraments of hope that God’s love will help us through our weakness and that our failures and shortcomings are not what defines us in God’s eyes. Ultimately, our healing brings us through a life-long journey of transformation toward the person we hope to become, and will help us to enjoy eternal closeness and peace with God.
Sacraments of Vocation and Service: Marriage and Holy Orders. These sacraments declare our commitment to bring God’s work into the world through relationship and service to others. They are designated as vocation because they specify the ways in which we will live our lives in response to our baptismal call. They allow us to find our fullest selves in relationship as a giving of the best of ourselves, of giving God’s goodness and love through the gift of our lives.