Question 114 of Lesson Eleventh of the Baltimore Catechism No. 2 noted that the Church and the sacraments are the two means by which Christ enables us to share in the effects of His redemption. In that lesson and Lesson Twelfth, we discussed the Church; now, we begin to examine the sacraments. Today's lesson covers general information concerning all of the sacraments; over the next 12 weeks, we'll look specifically at each sacrament and related questions.
The seven sacraments are outward signs of inward grace. Many people misunderstand what this means. The sacraments do not simply reflect grace that is already in our souls; rather, they are the means by which we receive both sanctifying and sacramental grace.
Sanctifying grace is the life of God in our souls. Thus, those sacraments which grant sanctifying grace to those who do not have it--the Sacraments of Baptism and of Confession--are called the "sacraments of the dead." The other five sacraments--Confirmation, Holy Communion, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony--increase sanctifying grace, and thus are called the "sacraments of the living."
It is important that we be in a state of grace--in other words, that we not be aware of having committed any mortal sin that we have not confessed--when we receive the sacraments of the living. Otherwise, we commit a sacrilege--the abuse of a sacred thing--because we are not worthy to receive the sacrament. That is why Saint Paul noted that those who receive Communion unworthily receive it to their own damnation.
Three of the sacraments--Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders--make an indelible mark on our soul. In other words, they make us a different person from what we were before. That is why those three sacraments can only be received once. Those spiritual marks remain in our souls forever, increasing our glory if we attain Heaven and our shame if we do not.
In the First Communion Catechism, the parallel lesson this week is Lesson Eleventh. It includes 5 questions drawn from Lesson Thirteenth of the Confirmation Catechism.
- Welcome to Sunday School!
- On God and His Perfections
- On the Unity and Trinity of God
- On Creation
- On Our First Parents and the Fall
- On Sin and Its Kinds
- On the Incarnation and Redemption
- On Our Lord's Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension
- On the Holy Ghost and His Descent Upon the Apostles
- On the Effects of the Redemption
- On the Church
- On the Attributes and Marks of the Church