What are sacraments?
Jesus Christ made visible the invisible God as we read in John 1:1–2. In him we experienced God's life-giving love. That is why Christ commanded his disciples to love one another as he loved them — so that all would know they were his disciples as we read in John 13:34–35. In this way Christ's disciples make visible the Risen Christ who is no longer present to us as he once was when he walked and talked with the people of his day.
The sacraments of the church community — baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, marriage and holy orders — make visible and effective, through word and action, the Risen Christ's life giving presence.
Sometimes the sacraments are thought of as falling into groups. The sacraments of initiation are those milestones that help draw a person closer into relationship with Jesus Christ and the church community. Baptism and Confirmation are two very clear examples of this though Eucharist is also included. However, it is unique in that it is a recurring sacrament that continues to sustain us throughout our faith journey.
The sacraments of healing include Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation. In the anointing of the sick, we pray for God's healing of mind, body and soul. In reconciliation, we find God's unconditional forgiveness. Therefore we confess our sins with the desire to renew our commitment to living in Christ and demonstrate our renewed commitment through penance.
The sacraments of Marriage and Holy orders are sacraments of vocation. Both are responses to God's call to lifetime commitments.
Sacraments in Common order of experience
Baptism is the foundational sacrament for a Christian. Through baptism one is freed from the chaos and slavery of sin and led to new life in Christ, who shows the newly baptized the way to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, one becomes a disciple of Christ and a member of the Christian community, the Church.
The Eucharist culminates the process of initiation. In the Eucharist we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection, the moment when he made a total gift of himself to God and to us. As we unite ourselves with Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist we celebrate what we believe. The Eucharist thus nourishes us in our journey of discipleship. When we live as Christ taught us, by dying to self and making love of God and neighbor the first priority in our life, then we will share in his resurrection.
The sacrament of reconciliation, also commonly known as penance or confession, is a celebration of God's mercy and the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. Catholics, who are aware of serious sin, are to confess their sins before receiving communion. Catholics are obliged to confess serious sins at least once a year during Easter time from the first Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday.
Confirmation is the sacrament of initiation in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit are called down upon a person by the anointing of the fragrant oil of chrism. It confirms a person in their commitment to see, celebrate and live life as Christ taught.
The Catholic Church identifies both marriage and holy orders as sacraments. Marriage is the vocation of a married couple. Holy orders is the vocation of a bishop, priest or deacon.
ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Anointing of the sick brings healing to those who are unhealthy in mind, body or soul. While this sacrament is often not sought out until later in life, it is available to all who are sick or preparing for surgery, serious medical treatment or severe sickness.