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Catholic sacraments
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Catholic sacraments

The practice of the Roman Catholic Church includes seven sacraments. These sacraments armediate divine grace, i.e., they cause the recipient to receive favors from God:

The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches likewise have sacraments (also called mysteries) but neither formally restricts the number of sacraments to seven. Likewise, doctrines regarding the details of sacraments may differ between Roman Catholicism and the two Orthodox communions. Like Catholicism, Orthodoxy holds that sacraments mediate divine grace. Protestant churches may or may not be sacramental, but most of those that consider themselves sacramental would recognise fewer sacraments, usually only Communion and Baptism.

Three of the seven sacraments may be received only once in a lifetime: baptism, confirmation, and ordination to a particular order (for example, a man who has been ordained a deacon can be ordained a priest, but cannot again receive the diaconal ordination). In case of uncertainty about whether a person has received one of those three sacraments at an earlier time, he or she may receive the sacrament conditionally. In a conditional baptism, the minister of the sacrament, usually a deacon or a priest, rather than saying "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," says "If you are not baptized, I baptize you" etc. The reason for this prohibition is that these three sacraments are held to imprint a sacramental character on the recipient's soul.

While these are the seven acknowledged sacraments of the Roman Catholic church, it is also recognized that a sacrament is received at any time a person is made to know that he/she is in the presence of God or the Holy Spirit. The seven sacraments are acknowledged as such because it is believed that at these specific times the Holy Spirit is present during these rites.

The administration of sacraments also plays the more mundane role of providing a sense of how active a parish church is. Bishops sometimes use a sacramental index to measure parish activity, as they allocate priests and resources to serve the needs of their parishoners.

Table of contents
1 Baptism
2 Eucharist
3 Reconciliation
4 Confirmation
5 Matrimony
6 Holy Orders
7 Anointing of the Sick
8 Validity versus licitness
9 External link


Baptism is the regeneration by water of the body, accompanied by the invocation of the Holy Trinity. It is given to infants in the Church. Adults who convert may also be baptized if they have not already been so in another Christian denomination, as long as that baptism included ths use of the trinitarian formula. The sacrament can be validly (but often illicitly) administered by a lay person — even a non-Christian. The usual minister of baptism is a deacon, a priest, or a bishop.


The Eucharist (Communion), is the unbloody sacrifice of Christ, marked by partaking in the Body and Blood of Christ, which replace bread and wine. The changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, held by Roman Catholic dogma to occur, is called transubstantiation. Viaticum is the Eucharist administered to a dying person. The minister of this sacrament is the priest (or bishop) who consecrates the eucharistic elements of bread and wine.


Reconciliation, also called Confession, involves admitting sins to a priest and receiving penance (a task to complete in order to achieve absolution or forgiveness from God).

Early 21st century decisions by the church prohibit the sacrament from being ministered through any electronic communications medium such as email,


Confirmation is a sacrament received by the baptized to impart sanctifying grace and strength to be perfect Christians.

The age for the reception of confirmation varies by country or even diocese; in Latin-rite Catholic churches it ranges from seven to fifteen; recipients must have attained the age of reason. In Eastern-rite Catholic churches, as in other Eastern churches, neonates are confirmed immediately after baptism, via the rite of chrismation.

Adult converts from Protestantism who were previously baptized with a trinitarian formula are received into communion in the Catholic Church by confirmation. Converts from Eastern Orthodoxy or Oriental Orthodoxy who were chrismated in those Eastern churches are not confirmed, because their chrismation in an Eastern church, unlike confirmation in Protestant churches, is held to be a valid confirmation, and confirming someone who has already been confirmed is forbidden by one of the doctrines of the Council of Trent.

In Latin-Rite Catholic churches, only a bishop is the ordinary minister of this sacrament, although in unusual circumstances a parish priest may administer it. In Eastern-Rite Catholic churches, the usual minister of this sacrament is the parish priest.


Matrimony is one of two sacraments that Catholics hold can be validly performed without the mystical powers of a priest (the other is baptism), because the ministers of the sacrament are the two parties to the marriage.

Holy Orders

Holy Orders is the entering into the priesthood and involves a vow of celibacy in the Latin Rite, though in Eastern Rites men who married before they were ordained to the diaconate may be ordained; the sacrament of Holy Orders is given in three degrees: that of the deacon (even in the Latin Rite a permanent deacon may be married before becoming a deacon), that of the priest, and that of the bishop. Only a bishop can be the minister of this sacrament.

Anointing of the Sick

The Anointing of the Sick is also known as extreme unction or the last rites and involves the anointing with oil of the sick and dying. Only a priest or bishop can administer this sacrament. It is held that in some cases this sacrament effects a miraculous cure, but only if there are things God wishes the recipient of the sacrament to do before dying.

Validity versus licitness

A rite that has the intended sacramental effect is a valid sacrament. Catholics hold that only a priest properly ordained by a bishop who is in a succession of bishops dating back to the Apostles can perform the miraculous transubstantiation necessary for the validity of the Eucharist, and only such a priest can absolve sins of penitents. Such a priest need not be a Catholic in order that those sacraments be valid; priests of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox communions also have the requisite mystical powers according to Catholics, but Protestant ministers do not. However, validity differs from licitness. Although an unordained person -- even a non-Christian -- can validly baptize, that is illegal except in emergencies. After an illicit but valid baptism, the baptized person may not be baptized again; that is determined by validity, not by licitness. Similarly, a priest who is not a bishop can validly perform the sacrament of confirmation, but in Latin-rite Catholic churches, that is forbidden. Five of the seven sacraments can be validly performed only by a priest -- the two exceptions being baptism and matrimony -- and one only by a bishop: holy orders.

External link