Catholic sacraments

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Baptism, part of Nicolas Poussin's Seven Sacraments 1642
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In the Roman Catholic Church, seven major life events are considered sacraments; that is, events upon which God's grace is specifically bestowed. The recognition of such things as sacraments in other churches depends on the church's distance from the Catholic Church; the Anglican church will recognize most or all of these, most Lutheran congregations only recognize baptism and communion, and many other Protestant churches recognize none of them at all (the idea of a sacrament contradicts the doctrine of sola fides, and therefore only the actual act of conversion can be considered a sacrament in the Catholic sense).

List of sacraments[edit]

  • Baptism: The ritual washing away of original sin. In Catholic tradition, this is usually done to infants by pouring water on their head, but is also done to adult converts with total immersion in the baptismal font. Although there are many formulas and rites accompanying baptism, the Church also accepts as valid (and irrevocable) "emergency" baptisms that can be literally as simple as any person sprinkling the subject with water while saying "I baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit".
  • Penance: The confession of one's sins to a priest, and the subsequent forgiveness by God and atonement (usually, pro forma, though prayer).
  • Eucharist: The Lord's Supper, in which bread and wine, on holy vessels called a paten and chalice, are consecrated as the body and blood of Christ and are sacrificed to God on the Church altar, and then ritually fed to the congregation.
  • Confirmation: The recognition (by anointing, in a church ceremony) of someone as a full-fledged member of the Roman Catholic Church. Usually comes around the age of 15 for those born into the church, and is done along with baptism and first Eucharist for adult converts. The Ukrainian Catholic Church practises Confirmation at birth, when it is called 'chrismation'.
  • Marriage: The blessing and sanctification of a marriage. Marriage differs from the other sacraments in that the bride and groom themselves, rather than the priest, are considered to have conferred the sacrament upon each other. The presence of a priest and at least two witnesses is still necessary for a canonically valid marriage, however.
  • Holy Orders: Ordination into the priesthood. In the Roman Catholic Church, marriage and holy orders are usually mutually exclusive. Priests, monks, and nuns are required to remain celibate, but in the Anglican Church and some of the Eastern Rite Catholic communities, men can be ordained as priests when married. The Catholic Church ordains married Anglican priests who have converted, but they may not marry again in the event of the death of their wife.
  • Anointing of the Sick: Anointing and Eucharist for an ill or dying individual. Can also be performed bedside in a hospital.


Under normal conditions, priests administer the sacraments, and sacraments are sometimes considered necessary to avoid risk of Hell. This keeps ordinary Catholics psychologically dependent on priests who are believed necessary for salvation.

See also[edit]