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THE BASICS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, PART IV: THE SACRAMENTS, THE SEVEN GREAT MEANS OF GRACE

31 Jul

“TO HAVE A CHANCE TO BE SAVED, WE NEED FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY, ‘THESE THREE; BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS CHARITY’ (1 COR 13:14). – FAITH IS A SUPERNATURAL GIFT FROM GOD, WHICH ENABLES US TO BELIEVE WITHOUT DOUBTING WHATEVER GOD HAS REVEALED.” ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷

THE SACRAMENTS ARE INSTITUTED BY JESUS CHRIST

“The Sacraments, the Seven Great Means of Grace, corresponding to the birth, the growth, the nourishment, the medicine, the journey of the soul, the Christian Priesthood, the Christian family.

THE SACRAMENTS

• INTRODUCTION

249. What is a Sacrament? A Sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, ordained by Jesus Christ, by which grace is given to our souls.

250. Do the Sacraments always give grace? The Sacraments always give grace to those who receive them worthily.

251. Whence have the Sacraments the power of giving grace? The Sacraments have the power of giving grace from the merits of Christ’s Precious Blood which they apply to our souls.

252. Ought we to have a great desire to receive the Sacraments? We ought to have a great desire to receive the Sacraments, because they are the chief means of our salvation.

253. Is a character given to the soul by any of the Sacraments? A character is given to the soul by the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Order.

254. What is a character? A character is a mark or seal on the soul which cannot be effaced, and therefore the Sacrament conferring it may not be repeated.

255. How many Sacraments are there? There are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Order, and Matrimony.

• BAPTISM

256. Baptism is a Sacrament which cleanses us from original sin, makes us Christians, children of God, and members of the Church.

257. Does Baptism also forgive actual sins? Baptism also forgives actual sins, with all punishment due to them, when it is received in proper dispositions by those who have been guilty of actual sin.

258. Who is the ordinary minister of Baptism? The ordinary minister of Baptism is a priest; but any one may baptise in case of necessity, when a priest cannot be had.

259. How is Baptism given? Baptism is given by pouring water on the head of the child, saying at the same time these words: [Name] ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.

260. What do we promise in Baptism? We promise in Baptism to renounce the devil and all his works and pomps.

261. Is Baptism necessary for salvation? Baptism is necessary for salvation because Christ has said: ‘Unless a man is born again through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’. (Jn 3:5)

• CONFIRMATION

262. What is Confirmation? Confirmation is a Sacrament by which we receive the Holy Spirit, in order to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.

263. Who is the ordinary minister of Confirmation? The ordinary minister of Confirmation is a Bishop.

264. How does the Bishop administer the Sacrament of Confirmation? The Bishop administers the Sacrament of Confirmation by praying that the Holy Spirit may come down upon those who are to be confirmed; and by laying his hand on them, and making the sign of the cross with chrism on their foreheads, at the same time pronouncing certain words.

265. What are the words used in Confirmation? The words used in Confirmation are these: ‘N… be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit’.

• THE HOLY EUCHARIST

266. What is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, together with his Soul and Divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine.

267. How are the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ? The bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ by the power of God, to whom nothing is impossible or difficult.

268. When are the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ? The bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ when the words of consecration, ordained by Jesus Christ, are pronounced by the priest in Holy Mass.

269. Why has Christ given himself to us in the Holy Eucharist? Christ has given himself to be the life and the food of our souls. ‘Whoever eats me will draw life from me’: ‘Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever’. (Jn 6:58, 59)

270. Is Christ received whole and entire under either kind alone? Christ is received whole and entire under either kind alone.

271. In order to receive the Blessed Sacrament worthily what is required? In order to receive the Blessed Sacrament worthily it is required that we be in a state of grace and keep the prescribed fast: water does not break this fast.

272. What is it to be in a state of grace? To be in a state of grace is to be free from mortal sin, and pleasing to God.

273. Is it a great sin to receive Holy Communion in mortal sin? It is a great sin to receive Holy Communion in mortal sin: ‘because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the Body, is eating and drinking his own condemnation.’ (1 Co 11:29)

274. Is the Blessed Eucharist a Sacrament only? The Blessed Eucharist is not a Sacrament only; it is also a sacrifice.

275. What is a sacrifice? A sacrifice is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, in testimony of his being the Sovereign Lord of all things.

276. What is the Sacrifice of the New Law? The Sacrifice of the New Law is the Holy Mass.

277. What is the Holy Mass? The Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, really present on the altar under the appearances of bread and wine, and offered God for the living and the dead.

278. Is the Holy Mass one and the same Sacrifice with that of the Cross? The Holy Mass is one and the same Sacrifice with that of the Cross, inasmuch as Christ, who offered himself, a bleeding victim, on the Cross to his heavenly Father, continues to offer himself in an unbloody manner on the altar, through the ministry of his priests.

279. For what ends is the Sacrifice of the Mass offered? The Sacrifice of the Mass is offered for four ends: first, to give supreme honour and glory to God; secondly, to thank him for all our benefits; thirdly, to satisfy God for our sins and to obtain the grace of repentance; and fourthly, to obtain all other graces and blessings through Jesus Christ.

280. Is the Mass also a memorial of the Passion and Death of our Lord? The Mass is also a memorial of the Passion and Death of our Lord, for Christ at his last supper said: ‘Do this for a commemoration of me’. (Lk 22:19)

• PENANCE

281. What is the Sacrament of Penance? Penance is a Sacrament whereby the sins, whether mortal or venial, which we have committed after Baptism are forgiven.

282. Does the Sacrament of Penance increase the grace of God in the soul? The Sacrament of Penance increases the grace of God in the soul, besides forgiving sin; we should, therefore, often go to confession.

283. When did our Lord institute the Sacrament of Penance? Our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Penance when he breathed on his Apostles and gave them power to forgive sins, saying: ‘Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven’. (Jn 20:23)

284. How does the priest forgive sins? The priest forgives sins by the power of God, when he pronounces the words of absolution.

285. What are the words of absolution? The words of absolution are: ‘I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.

286. Are any conditions for forgiveness required on the part of the penitent? Three conditions for forgiveness are required on the part of the penitent – Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction.

287. What is Contrition? Contrition is a heartfelt sorrow for our sins, because by them we have offended so good a God, together with a firm purpose of amendment.

288. What is a firm purpose of amendment? A firm purpose of amendment is a resolution to avoid, by the grace of God, not only sin, but also the dangerous occasions of sin.

289. How may we obtain a hearty sorrow for our sins? We may obtain a hearty sorrow for our sins by earnestly praying for it, and by making use of such considerations as may lead us to it.

290. What consideration concerning God will lead us to sorrow for our sins? This consideration concerning God will lead us to sorrow for our sins; that by our sins we have offended God, who is infinitely good in himself and infinitely good to us.

291. What consideration concerning our Saviour will lead us to sorrow for our sins? This consideration concerning our Saviour will lead us to sorrow for our sins; that our Saviour died for our sins, and that those who sin grievously ‘have wilfully crucified the Son of God and openly mocked him.’ (Heb 6:6)

292. Is sorrow for our sins, because by them we have lost heaven and deserved hell, sufficient when we go to confession? Sorrow for our sins, because by them we have lost heaven and deserve hell, is sufficient when we go to confession.

293. What is perfect contrition? Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin arising purely from the love of God.

294. What special value has perfect contrition? Perfect contrition has this special value; that by it our sins are forgiven immediately, even before we confess them; but nevertheless, if they are serious, we are strictly bound to confess them afterwards.

295. What is confession? Confession is to accuse ourselves of our sins to a priest approved by the Bishop.

296. What if a person wilfully conceals a serious sin in confession? If a person wilfully conceals a serious sin in confession he is guilty of a great sacrilege, by telling a lie to the Holy Spirit in making a bad confession.

297. How many things have we to do in order to prepare for confession? We have four things to do in order to prepare for confession: first, we must heartily pray for grace to make a good confession: secondly, we must carefully examine our conscience: thirdly, we must take time and care to make a good act of contrition: and fourthly, we must resolve by the help of God to renounce our sins, and to begin a new life for the future.

298. What is satisfaction? Satisfaction is doing the penance given us by the priest.

299. Does the penance given by the priest always make full satisfaction for our sins? The penance given by the priest does not always make full satisfaction for our sins. We should therefore add to it other good works and penances, and try to gain Indulgences.

300. What is an Indulgence? An Indulgence is a remission, granted by the Church, of the temporal punishment which often remains due to sin after its guilt has been forgiven.

• ANOINTING OF THE SICK

301. What is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick? This Sacrament is the anointing of the sick with holy oil, accompanied with prayer.

302. When is the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick given? The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is given when we are in danger ofdeath by sickness.

303. What are the effects of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick? The effects of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick are to comfort and strengthen the soul, to remit sin, and even to restore health, when God sees it to be expedient.

304. What authority is there in Scripture for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick? The authority in Scripture for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is in the 5th chapter of St James (Jm 5:14,15) where it is said: ‘If one of you is ill he should send for the elders of the Church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.’

• HOLY ORDER

305. What is the Sacrament of Holy Order? Holy Order is the Sacrament by which bishops, priests, and other ministers of the Church are ordained, and receive power and grace to perform their sacred duties.

• MATRIMONY

306. What is the Sacrament of Matrimony? Matrimony is the Sacrament which sanctifies the contract of a Christian marriage, and gives a special grace to those who receive it worthily.

307. What special grace does the Sacrament of Matrimony give to those who receive it worthily? The Sacrament of Matrimony gives to those who receive it worthily a special grace, to enable them to bear the difficulties of their state, to love and be faithful to one another, and to bring up their children in the fear of God.

308. Is it a sacrilege to contract a marriage in serious sin, or in disobedience to the law of the Church? It is sacrilege to contract marriage in serious sin, or in disobedience to the laws of the Church, and, instead of a blessing, the guilty parties draw upon themselves the anger of God. (For the marriage of a Catholic to be valid there must be present (1) either the Bishop or the Parish Priest, or another Priest duly delegated, and (2) two witnesses).

309. What is a ‘mixed marriage’? A ‘mixed marriage’ is a marriage in which only one partner is a Catholic.

310. Does the Church encourage mixed marriages? The Church does not encourage mixed marriages.

311. Does the Church sometimes permit mixed marriages? The Church sometimes permits mixed marriages by granting a dispensation, and under special conditions.

311a. What does the Catholic partner of a mixed marriage promise? The Catholic partner of a mixed marriage promises to do everything possible to preserve the faith and have all children of the marriage baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church.

312. Can any human power dissolve the bond of marriage? No human power can dissolve the bond of marriage, because Christ has said: ‘What God has joined together, let no man put asunder’. (Mt 19:6)”
– From the “Penny Catechism”, Imprimatur + John Cardinal Heenan, Archbischop of Westminster, 18th July 1971

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