There are seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church, which according to Catholic theology were instituted by Jesus and entrusted to the Church.
Sacraments are visible rites seen as signs and efficacious channels of the grace of God to all those who receive them with the proper disposition.
The sevenfold list of sacraments is often organized into three groups:
– the sacraments of initiation (into the Church, the body of Christ), consisting of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist;
– the sacraments of healing, consisting of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick;
– and the sacraments of service: Holy Orders and Matrimony.
We believe that the Sacraments truly are vehicles of the power of Christ in and of themselves. They are a Grace, that is why they are necessary for our Christian life.
We believe that Sacraments accomplish what they sign.
In other words if I am baptised, I truly am washed of all sin at that moment. If I am taking the Eucharist in communion, I truly am partaking in the body of Christ. If a couple is getting married there is a huge Grace that pours out on them just by the action of getting married. If a priest is getting ordained, a power flows upon him at the moment of his ordination that gives him the ability to forgive sins and create the Eucharist. Catholics believe, for a Sacrament to occur, the person ministering it must have the intention to perform the sacrament. In other words, the sacrament can’t just happen by mistake. It must be intended. God wants our cooperation.
Blessings are called “sacramentals” because they prepare us to receive the grace of the sacraments and help us to grow to be more like Christ (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1670). Blessings consist of prayer, Scripture, and sometimes a special ritual sign.
People are accustomed to seeing bishops, priests, and deacons blessing objects or persons in the name of the Church. Indeed, “the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry”, often with the participation of the local parish community gathered in prayer. Whenever an ordained minister is present, he should be called upon to give the blessing.
However, there are other blessings, like the ones contained in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, that can be prayed by anyone who has been baptized, “in virtue of the universal priesthood, a dignity they possess because of their baptism and confirmation”. The blessings given by laypersons are exercised because of their special office, such as parents on behalf of their children.
Right after telling his disciples to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Jesus instructs them to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). St. Paul echoes the Lord’s command when he exhorts the Romans to “bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them” (Rom 12:14). St. Peter urges that each time we are on the receiving end of evil, we should return “a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Pt 3:9).
This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing,’ and to bless” (no. 1669; see Gn 12:2; Lk 6:28; Rom 12:14; 1 Pt 3:9).
Like the Lord into whom they have been baptized, parents should bless and pray for their children. Each one of us should remember the sick and those who suffer. Each time we gather around the family table, we should bless God and the food he has given us. On special occasions, we will observe the traditions of the season, sanctifying by prayer and blessing all the seasons of grace that God has given to us.