What are the Sacraments?
When Jesus Christ came upon the earth and redeemed mankind from sin, He spoke to people personally and extended His graces and blessings to them. He then established His Church to convey His teachings, graces and blessings to future generations. He also established the sacraments as the method by which the graces and blessings of His Redemption would flow to each individual. A sacrament therefore is an outward sign that an individual is receiving grace.
Christ instituted seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance (Reconciliation), the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. These seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain correspondence between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life.
There are three sacraments of Christian initiation; two of healing; and two at the service of communion and the mission of the faithful. Thus, the sacraments form an organic whole in which each particular sacrament has its own vital place. In this organic whole, the Eucharist occupies a unique place as the "Sacrament of sacraments": "all the other sacraments are ordered to it as to their end". (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III,65,3.)
The sacraments of Christian initiation — Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist — lay the foundations of every Christian life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.
Baptism (CCC 1213–1284)
Because of original sin, we are born without grace in our souls, so there is no way for us to have fellowship with God. Jesus became man to bring us into union with his Father. He said no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is first born of "water and the Spirit" (John 3:5)—this refers to baptism. Through baptism we are born again, but this time on a spiritual level instead of a physical level. We are washed in the bath of rebirth (Titus 3:5). We are baptized into Christ’s death and therefore share in his Resurrection (Rom. 6:3–7). Baptism cleanses us of sins and brings the Holy Spirit and his grace into our souls (Acts 2:38, 22:16). And the apostle Peter is perhaps the most blunt of all: "Baptism now saves you" (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is the gateway into the Church.
Information for Parents wanting Children Baptized
Parents wishing to have their child baptised should contact the parish office to make the necessary arrangements. Parents should also attend a prebaptismal meeting. See here for the dates.
Penance (CCC 1422–1498)
Sometimes on our journey toward the heavenly promised land we stumble and fall into sin. God is always ready to lift us up and to restore us to grace-filled fellowship with him. He does this through the sacrament of penance (which is also known as confession or reconciliation). Jesus gave his apostles power and authority to reconcile us to the Father. They received Jesus’ own power to forgive sins when he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (John 20:22–23). Paul notes that "all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation. . . . So, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us" (2 Cor. 5:18–20). Through confession to a priest, God’s minister, we have our sins forgiven, and we receive grace to help us resist future temptations.What else does the sacrament of Penance do for us? The sacrament of Penance also gives us the opportunity to receive spiritual advice and instruction from our confessor. What must we do to receive the sacrament of Penance worthily? To receive the sacrament of Penance worthily, we must: examine our conscience; be sorry for our sins; have the firm purpose of not sinning again; confess our sins to the priest; be willing to perform the penance the priest gives us. But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed and keep all my commandments and do judgment and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die. (Ezekiel 18:21) Further reading -> CCC 1450-1460 What is an examination of conscience? An examination of conscience is a sincere effort to call to mind all the sins we have committed since our last worthy confession. What should we do before our examination of conscience? Before our examination of conscience we should ask God's help to know our sins and to confess them with sincere sorrow. How can we make a good examination of conscience? We can make a good examination of conscience by calling to mind the commandments of God and of the Church, and the particular duties of our state of life, and by asking ourselves how we may have sinned with regard to them.
The Eucharist (CCC 1322–1419)
Once we become members of Christ’s family, he does not let us go hungry, but feeds us with his own body and blood through the Eucharist. In the Old Testament, as they prepared for their journey in the wilderness, God commanded his people to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the Angel of Death would pass by their homes. Then they ate the lamb to seal their covenant with God. This lamb prefigured Jesus. He is the real "Lamb of God," who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
Through Jesus we enter into a New Covenant with God (Luke 22:20), who protects us from eternal death. God’s Old Testament people ate the Passover lamb. Now we must eat the Lamb that is the Eucharist. Jesus said, "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life within you" (John 6:53). At the Last Supper he took bread and wine and said, "Take and eat. This is my body . . . This is my blood which will be shed for you" (Mark 14:22–24). In this way Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacrificial meal Catholics consume at each Mass.
The Catholic Church teaches that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross occurred "once for all"; it cannot be repeated (Heb. 9:28). Christ does not "die again" during Mass, but the very same sacrifice that occurred on Calvary is made present on the altar. That’s why the Mass is not "another" sacrifice, but a participation in the same, once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Paul reminds us that the bread and the wine really become, by a miracle of God’s grace, the actual body and blood of Jesus: "Anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor. 11:27–29). After the consecration of the bread and wine, no bread or wine remains on the altar. Only Jesus himself, under the appearance of bread and wine, remains.
Confirmation (CCC 1285–1321)
God strengthens our souls in another way, through the sacrament of confirmation. Even though Jesus’ disciples received grace before his Resurrection, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to strengthen them with new graces for the difficult work ahead. They went out and preached the gospel fearlessly and carried out the mission Christ had given them. Later, they laid hands on others to strengthen them as well (Acts 8:14–17). Through confirmation you too are strengthened to meet the spiritual challenges in your life.
Matrimony (CCC 1601–1666)
Most people are called to the married life. Through the sacrament of matrimony God gives special graces to help married couples with life’s difficulties, especially to help them raise their children as loving followers of Christ. Marriage involves three parties: the bride, the groom, and God. When two Christians receive the sacrament of matrimony, God is with them, witnessing and blessing their marriage covenant. A sacramental marriage is permanent; only death can break it (Mark 10:1–12, Rom. 7:2–3, 1 Cor. 7:10–11). This holy union is a living symbol of the unbreakable relationship between Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:21–33).
Information for couples wishing to marry
Couples wishing to marry should contact the parish office to make the necessary arrangements. They should inform themselves about marriage preparation, church regulations, and legal requirements, and choose the readings from the Order of the Mass.
The following documents will be useful:
- Booking Form for St. Michael's, Gorey
- Booking Form for St. Kevin's, Tara Hill
- View/Print the Order of the Mass as a PDF document
- Booklet outlining church regulations and state regulations
- Sample Prayers of the Faithful If these do not suit you are free to write your own prayers.
Holy Orders (CCC 1536–1600)
Others are called to share specially in Christ’s priesthood. In the Old Covenant, even though Israel was a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6), the Lord called certain men to a special priestly ministry (Exod. 19: 22). In the New Covenant, even though Christians are a kingdom of priests (1 Pet. 2:9), Jesus calls certain men to a special priestly ministry (Rom. 15:15–16). This sacrament is called holy orders. Through it priests are ordained and thus empowered to serve the Church (2 Tim. 1:6–7) as pastors, teachers, and spiritual fathers who heal, feed, and strengthen God’s people—most importantly through preaching and the administration of the sacraments.
Anointing of the Sick (CCC 1499–1532)
Priests care for us when we are physically ill. They do this through the sacrament known as the anointing of the sick. The Bible instructs us, "Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. . . . Is any one among you sick? He should summon the presbyters [priests] of the Church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven" (Jas. 5:14–15). Anointing of the sick not only helps us endure illness, but it cleanses our souls and helps us prepare to meet God.