The seven sacraments of the Catholic Church are special occasions for experiencing God’s presence. They are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant, and important for Christians. “Sacrament” is taken from the Latin word sacramentum, which means “a sign of the sacred.” The seven sacraments are both signs and instruments of God’s saving grace.
The 7 Sacraments instituted by Christ are:
- Holy Orders
- Anointing of the Sick
There is a lot of disagreement among Catholics and Protestants in regards to baptism. In many Protestant denominations, people are baptized as adults and it is considered symbolic. Catholics are baptized as infants, however, and the Sacrament of Baptism is one the seven instituted by Jesus Christ. Baptism is salvic, not symbolic.
Let’s take a look at baptism in Scripture:
Matthew 19:14–“Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” There is no age limit on entering the Kingdom of heaven, and no age limit on being eligible for baptism.
Acts 2:38–“Peter said to them, ‘Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit.’” Protestants use this verse to prove one must be a believer (not an infant) to be baptized. But the Greek translation of this verse in Scripture literally says, “If you repent, then each one who is a part of you and yours must each be baptized.” This, contrary to what Protestants argue, actually proves that babies are baptized based on their parents’ faith. This is confirmed in the next verse.
Acts 2:39–“For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away – all whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” The word “children” that Peter uses comes from the Greek word “teknon,” which also includes infants.
See also Acts 21:21 which uses “teknon” for eight day old babies.
Another topic of much debate is that of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I have had many Protestants express to me their objections to confessing their sins to “another man.”
Let’s take a look at confession in Scripture:
John 20:21-23–“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.’” As Christ was sent by the Father to forgive sins, so Christ sends the apostles and their successors to forgive sins. In order for the apostles to exercise this gift of forgiving sins, the penitents must orally confess their sins to them, otherwise, the apostles and their successors would have no way of knowing their sins and would not be able to provide proper counsel.
Matthew 9:8–“When the people saw it, they were afraid, and praised God for giving such authority to men.” This verse shows that God has given the authority to forgive sins to “men.” Therefore, those Protestants who acknowledge that he apostles had the authority to forgive sins (which this verse demonstrates) must prove that this gift ended with the apostles. Otherwise, the apostles’ successors still possess this gift.
James 5:15-16–“This prayer made in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will restore them to health, and the sins they committed will be forgiven. So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a person has a powerful effect.” In verse 15 we see that sins are forgiven by the priests in the sacrament of the sick. Then, in verse 16, James is speaking in reference to verse 15 and how to receive forgiveness.
The Eucharist has been a Sacrament since it was instituted by Christ in the Gospels (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 6). The Eucharistic sacrifice is the central focal point of the Catholic Mass. The Church teaches that the Eucharist, even though it still appears as bread and wine after consecration, is truly the real presence of Christ–His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through what is called transubstantiation. Only ordained Catholic priests are able to perform transubstantiation as they are the apostles’ successors.
Let’s take a look at the Eucharist in Scripture:
John 6:51–“I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”
John 6:53-54–”Truly, truly I say to you…he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:56–“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him.”
Catholics believe that Christ instituted the Eucharist during the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; John 6:31-71). In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul wrote about the Last Supper:
1 Corinthians 11:23-24–“…that the Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed took bread, and when He gave thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” A few verses later St. Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 11:27-30–“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
The wording used by St. Paul in this passage would be too strong if the Eucharist were merely symbolic of Christ or merely a meal of ordinary bread and wine. People cannot profane the Body of Christ by consuming ordinary bread and wine.
Jesus promised to be with us to the end of time (Matthew 28:20) and His promise is kept by his gift of the Eucharist.
Since Catholics are generally baptized as infants, they are not able to recite their baptismal vows on their own. Therefore, becoming Catholic is initially the choice of the parents. The Sacrament of Confirmation is offered to young Catholics when they reach an age of sound decision-making. It is the sacrament that gives Catholics the opportunity to continue growing in their Faith and receive the Holy Spirit so as to be a stronger follower of Jesus Christ. Although the age at which Confirmation is offered varies according to the specific archdiocese, it is generally done before children leave high school. I was confirmed in the eighth grade, however, in my current archdiocese, it is now offered to high school juniors.
During this sacrament the confirmation candidate kneels, or stands, in front of the bishop while their sponsor stands behind them and places their right hand on the candidate’s right shoulder. The sponsor introduces the candidate to the bishop who then proceeds to “seal” the candidate with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The “seal” is the Sign of the Cross imparted on the candidate’s forehead with holy oil. For more on the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Let’s take a look at confirmation in Scripture:
Acts 8:14-17–“The apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had received the word of God, so they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for the believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit had not yet come down on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Notice that the Samarians did not receive the fullness of the Spirit until they were confirmed by Peter and John.
Acts 19:5-6–“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul placed his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came upon them.”
When Paul laid his hands on the newly baptized, it was then that they received the Holy Spirit.
Revelation 9:4–“They were told not to harm the grass or the trees or any other plant; they could harm only the people who did not have the mark of God’s seal on their foreheads.”
As previously mentioned, the “seal” is the holy oil imparted on the candidate’s forehead by the bishop.
Other Scripture passages pertaining to confirmation:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
From marriage arises an exclusive, perpetual “bond” between the spouses. Only death can break that bond. There are numerous passages in Sacred Scripture pertaining to matrimony and God’s plan for marriage.
Paragraph 1602 of the Catholic Catechism states, “Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of ‘the wedding-feast of the Lamb’ (Rev. 19:7). Scripture speaks throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal ‘in the Lord’ in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church.”
Let’s take a look at matrimony in Scripture:
1 Corinthians 11:3–“But I want you to understand that Christ is supreme over every man, the husband is supreme over his wife, and God is supreme over Christ.”
Ephesians 5:22-25–“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Savior of the church, his body. And so wives must submit themselves completely to their husbands just as the church submits itself to Christ. Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.”
Ephesians 5:28–“Men ought to love their wives just as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself.”
Genesis 1:27-28–“So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female , blessed them, and said, “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control.”
Genesis 2:18–“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.’”
1 Peter 3:7–“In the same way you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are more delicate than you. Treat them with respect, because they also will receive, together with you, God’s gift of life. Do this so that nothing will interfere with your prayers.”
There are several different controversies that tend to arise from Protestant circles in regards to the Catholic priesthood and religious life. Two of the main adversarial stances I have encountered in regards to the priesthood are objections to celibacy and Catholics calling priests “Father.”
The Bible addresses both of these issues and lays the groundwork for the priesthood as we know it today.
Let’s take a look at holy orders in Scripture:
Matthew 23:9–“And you must not call anyone here on earth ‘Father,’ because you have only one Father in heaven.”
This is the verse Protestants always use to dispute the practice of calling priests “Father.” It is important to note that most Protestants claim to be literal interpreters of the Bible, whereas Catholics are contextual interpreters, meaning that the true meaning of each verse is found in the context of the passage.
In Matthew 23:9, when Jesus told his disciples not to call anyone on earth “Father,” he was referring to the Pharisees’ and their hypocrisy. Furthermore, in the preceding and succeeding verses, Jesus tells his disciples not to be called “Teacher” or “Leader.” Therefore, Protestants must argue that we cannot call any man “Teacher” or “Leader” either.
Ephesians 3:14-15–“For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name.”
Acts 7:2–“Stephen answered, ‘Bothers and fathers, listen to me!…’”
1 John 2:13–“I write to you, fathers, because you know him who has existed from the beginning.”
1 Corinthians 4:15–“For even if you have ten thousand guardians in your Christian life, you have only one father. For in your union with Christ Jesus I have become your father by bringing the Good News to you.”
Philippians 2:22–“And you yourselves know how he has proved his worth, how he and I, like a son and his father, have worked together for the sake of the gospel.”
*It is important to note that celibacy in religious life is Church tradition, not dogma.
Matthew 19:11-12–“Jesus answered, ‘This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so.’”
Matthew 19:29–“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake, will receive a hundred times more and will be given eternal life.”
1 Corinthians 7:8–“Now, to the unmarried and to the widows I say that it would be better for you to continue to live alone as I do.”
Here we see that St. Paul chose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven and to better fulfill his priestly duties.
1 Corinthians 7:32-34–“I would like you to be free from worry. An unmarried man concerns himself with the Lord’s work, because he is trying to please the Lord. But a married man concerns himself with worldly matters, because he wants to please his wife; and so he is pulled in two directions.”
Anointing of the Sick
“By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.” (CCC para. 1499)
Although no one knows when their last day on earth will be, there are many instances in which people find themselves in a situation where death appears imminent. For Catholics in these situations, the Church offers the sacrament known as the Anointing of the Sick. This is the opportunity for the sick and dying to receive absolution from their sins and be healed as they prepare for a new life with Christ.
Let’s take a look at anointing of the sick in Scripture:
Mark 6:13–“They drove out many demons, and rubbed olive oil on many sick people and healed them.” This sacrament, instituted by Christ, heals physically and spiritually.
James 5:14-15–“Are any among you sick? They should send for the church elders, who will pray for them and rub olive oil on them in the name of the Lord. This prayer made in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will restore them to health, and the sins they have committed will be forgiven.”