Sacraments and their celebration are at the heart of Catholic spiritual and worship life.The Catholic Church celebrates seven sacraments. The Eucharist, and the Eucharistic Celebration (Mass), is central among the sacraments. Vatican II has described Eucharistas the “source and summit” of Catholic life and worship.
Pope Francis, in his book “Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments” has this to say:: “Sacraments are not simply observances; they are portals through which the Lord brings us all the graces that flow from his death and resurrection. And wonderfully, each sacrament opens us to a personal encounter with Jesus.”
The Handbook for Today’s Catholic states: “The sacraments are moments of God touching our lives in a special way and opportunities for growth in our relationship with God.”
In each sacrament there is an outward or visible sign that one can see (example: water, bread, wine, oil, laying on of hands) as well as words spoken. It is in and through these outward signs that the Lord is encountered and made present to the individual and the faith-community. In the terminology of the Church, these outward signs are “efficacious” – that is, they do spiritually in and for the individual and the faith-community what they represent.
The seven Sacraments may be understood as belonging in one of the three following groups:
- Sacraments of Initiation,
- Sacraments of Healing,
- Sacraments of Service