The Sacraments of The Roman Catholic Church
The intensity and variety of these seven Sacraments are the driving force of Catholicism. They should always be adhered too and never resiled from.
There are seven such sacraments all being outward signs of inward invisible supernatural grace namely:
- Baptism (Infant)
- Holy Communion (8 years)
- Confession (8 years)
- Confirmation (15 years nowadays)
- Holy Orders (the priesthood)
- The Last Rites (or the Sacrament of Extreme unction) otherwise known in modern times as the Sacrament of Healing or for the sick.
These sacraments require a Roman Catholic Priest properly ordained to administer the Sacrament and furthermore to offer up the Holy Mass, without which the Catholic Church falters. Only Roman Catholics properly baptised may be admitted to receive these sacraments. It is sometimes said a priest of the Roman Catholic Church is not required for Baptism (Infant) and matrimony. Although technically permissible such conduct by a layperson would be most unwise. Firstly the layman is not trained to instruct the parents and spouses to be and also properly administer these two sacraments.
2. The Layman Further Exposed
The Layman does not have the power and grace radiating down through the Sacrament of Holy Orders which the Roman Catholic Priest has to adorn Baptisms. To deny the infant child a priestly Baptism by a Roman Catholic Priest is most wrongful and the infant child cannot speak for himself or herself. The sleight of hand involved in this process is contrary to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church over the centuries. Remember the first Sacrament to be carried out was the adult Baptism of Jesus Christ Himself in the River Jordan by St John the Baptist his kinsman and future martyr before the foundation of the Church by the coming of the Holy Ghost in Jerusalem upon the Apostles and Mary. Marriage requires proper preparation and solemnity only possible within a Church and by the Priest whether Roman Catholic or Anglican. The Priest comes with his Church – you do not run away from the Priest and Church to marry – Romeo and Juliet sought out the Friar in Shakespeare’s tragedy. You cannot have the priest without his Church and vice versa. The Layman is a very poor second and will not leave the imprimatur of Christ on the infant or the engaged couple in marriage. He cannot convey supernatural grace which is invisible yet defines each and every sacrament. The infant and couple are left untouched by grace if the layman performs the Rite. Essentially they have been cheated.
3. Holy Confession and Communion
What can I say? The priest is the channel of grace in both these Sacraments. In confession he is God’s Agent and administers absolution in the shoes of God on earth. The invisible grace depends upon the truly contrite penitent and the proper words of absolution (not conditional) uttered by the priest and the validly ordained Roman Catholic Priest in charge. It is not what the penitent says but his attitude centred upon contrition, humility and sincerity which count in confession. The priest will always respond to this genuine individual seeking God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Sorrow.
Holy Communion follows directly on for the forgiven sinner who yearns to receive Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Here it is the priest offering up the Mass which converts the bread and wine in to the Body and Blood of Our Lord for the faithful to consume and nourish their souls upon. The greatest repast ever as the Church Roman Catholic teaches: The Last Supper of Christ will in due course become ours. The role of the Priest is to be the main actor on earth in this ultimate drama of Christ’s Passion, death and Communion with His Faithful. The Priest is not only sine qua non and central to this sacrifice he stands on the sandals of Christ who offered this Sacrifice on Holy Thursday before His death on the Cross on Good Friday. Flowing from Confession and Holy Communion in tandem comes the ultimate grace of God for all Roman Catholics i.e. Christ’s Soul intermingling with ours – anima Christi and anima mea.
Essentially this is your marching orders from Christ which you should never deny and refute. The seal is affixed by the Bishop to signify your proper intention to renounce yourself, pick up your Cross and follow Christ. You can only do that once as the confirmand in this sacrament however many times the Bishop may confirm other candidates. The confirmation name further defines your aim in life and method of achieving salvation. It should be chosen with care and adhered to during your life in the spirit of that Saint’s example. That is why you chose him or her to be your friend and example in life. All your Christian names given by your parents have a meaning for you and those names of your family members strike you. Your Christian names take you back to the tension of your Baptism in Christ. Your confirmation name is the constant reminder of your vocal nature with your Christian names leading you also. Each impacts upon the others as names. A Roman Catholic is characterised by these names from an early age when he has learned his Christian names given at birth. In the old days of the 1960’s you were confirmed at 11 years or 12 – now it is 15 years. You were still well able to choose your confirmation name unprompted at 11-12 years providing you had information of a pool of Holy Men and Women to select from, supplied by teachers of religion (Christian).
5. Ordination to the Priesthood Roman Catholic
The most important members of the Catholic Church are the priesthood as ordained. Even the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. Being consecrated a Cardinal Bishop or Pope is not another Sacrament. It is the conferring of a higher rank in the Catholic Church. The priest dispenses the sacraments (seven) and no one else does in my book. Bishops are priests first and foremost. No man may be made Bishop without being in Holy Orders. Christ is the High Priest and gives us the eternal grace flowing through all the sacraments. But his ordained priests are the crucial links in the chain. Without these priests His grace would not reach us. They are absolutely essential to the continuation of Christianity through these seven sacraments. The priests of our Roman Catholic Church are exemplary in their singlemindedness and dedication to saying Mass and hearing confessions. Whatever their faults no one can deny they are ingenuous and unsophisticated. They are not underhand and deceitful. They minister to souls as a priority. They are not worldly. The High Priest will not neglect the lower graded Priests of His Church. They are all priests but I don’t subscribe to the theory all believers are priests. That does not wash with me. You have to have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England to be called a priest and deserve that title in my argument. A layman is a layman and a priest is a priest but on no account confuse the two appellations. You will always know a priest from an un-ordained Christian.
6. The Sacrament of the sick.
It brings great comfort to some particularly the relatives. It essentially involves the anointing of the sick along the passage to Heaven herself. On Baptism we are anointed for life and thus our lifetime. Of course healing is another aspect maybe of the whole being as opposed to the physical body. John Paul II anointed the sick in St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral Southwark in 1982. That Pope was a High Priest ministering to his flock. This is the essence of this sacrament – the Priest as Shepherd looking after and caring for his flock.
The Sacraments form and sustain us by the very character they give to us. This character is truly supernatural grace driven and the results in our lives as Roman Catholics are of the utmost vitality and Calibre. You will never crush a Roman Catholic. He will always resurface and get off the canvas.