Seven sacraments form the framework of Catholic spirituality. In a
sacrament, Jesus himself acts in and through the ritual, offering new life,
forgiving sins, giving his own body and blood, healing, uniting,
consecrating. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the transforming grace of
Christ’s actions is poured into the hearts of those participating. So a
sacrament does more than just symbolize spiritual reality—it actually makes
that spiritual reality present at the place and time the sacrament is
celebrated. One term used to describe this reality is efficacious—the
sacraments effect change in us and in the world because of God’s power, not
Just participating in a sacrament doesn’t mean you will be changed. You must
be prepared for an actively participate in the sacraments if the grace given
by God in them is to have an effect in your life. This inner attitude and
readiness on our part is called our disposition.
With this in mind, we can now understand the definition of sacraments
provided by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1131):
sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and
the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The
by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make
graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those
them with the required dispositions.
Grace is a word that is frequently associated with the sacraments. Grace is
the religious name we give to the free and undeserved gifts we receive from
God. Grace is the experience we have of being loved as a child of God. The
love we receive, in all its various forms, empowers us to live lives of love
ourselves, in service to God and others.
The seven sacraments are divided into three groups. The first group is
sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. The second
group is sacraments of service: Matrimony and Holy Orders. And finally, the
third group is sacraments of healing: Reconciliation and Anointing of the
Sick. These seven sacraments are the heart of the Catholic community.
Taken from The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth by Saint Mary’s Press