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Baptism is the Sacrament by which one enters the Catholic Church. It is the first of three Sacraments, together with Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, by which one is fully initiated into the Catholic Church. Its efficacy is seen in the forgiveness of sin and the entrance into a life of grace. The Sacrament is administered by either a threefold pouring of water over the head -- or a full immersion -- of the one to be baptized, along with an invocation of the Holy Trinity. Adults receive all three Sacraments of Initiation on their day of reception into the Church, whereas baptized children ordinarily will prepare for Confirmation and Holy Eucharist during pre-adolescence. The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of baptisms in all Christian denominations which administer the Sacrament through water and invocation of the Trinity. Accordingly, baptized non-Catholics who choose to enter the Catholic Church are not re-baptized, but are welcomed into the church through a Profession of Faith and the reception of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
Confirmation is the Sacrament which strengthens one’s faith life through the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. Its reception is seen to be in the tradition of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the first followers of Jesus Christ, when they were gathered in the Upper Room on the 50th Day after Jesus’ Ascent into Heaven. It is administered by the imposition of hands upon, and anointing of, the head with Holy Chrism.
Holy Eucharist is the central act of worship in the Catholic Church, during which the Church believes that bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, even as the appearances of bread and wine remain, and during which the faithful partake of this sacred food in Holy Communion. The Church also understands the celebration of Holy Eucharist to bring about a re-presentation of the Last Supper, at which Jesus Christ took and blessed bread and wine, and gave them to his Apostles with the words, “This is my Body; this is my Blood.” It is the most important weekly event in the Catholic Church, whose members are expected to participate fully in this Sacrament on every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation.
Penance / Reconciliation / Confession
The Sacrament of Penance, also called the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is the liturgical celebration by which Christians, who acknowledge their sins and sinfulness, are absolved from their sins, reconciled with the People of God, and empowered with a sacramental grace to assist in avoiding future sins. Often referred to merely as Confession, this Sacrament ordinarily requires a private confession of sins to either a priest or bishop. Once the confession of sins has been completed and the penitent expresses sorrow for sin, the minister assigns a work of piety to be performed as a “penance,” and he administers absolution for all sins that have been committed by the penitent.
Anointing / Healing
The Sacrament of Anointing, also call the Sacrament of Healing, is administered to provide the spiritual help a Christian needs when suffering from serious illness. The Church also believes that God may choose to work through this Sacrament to bring about a physical healing. It is administered through the anointing of the head and hands with oil that has been blessed by the local bishop. Although this Sacrament was once reserved for the terminally ill (and hence called Extreme Unction), the Church in fact desires that this Sacrament be received during the early stages, and even throughout the duration, of all serious illnesses. Even in the case of the terminally ill, the Church desires that her members do not wait until they have lost consciousness and are on the verge of death, but that they receive the Sacrament of Anointing following an opportunity to make a sacramental confession, if desired, and prior to receiving the Last Rite, Holy Viaticum, the name given to Holy Communion administered to the dying, for it is truly food cum via, food for the journey to everlasting life.
Matrimony is the Sacrament by which a Christian man and a Christian woman consent both to live faithfully as husband and wife and to accept children lovingly from God. In the Catholic Church, such consent (the wedding vows) must be exchanged in the presence of a bishop, priest, or deacon, as well as two other witnesses. However, the Church accepts as valid the marriages of all baptized Christians who are free to marry and who exchange such consent either according to their own religious traditions or in the presence of a duly appointed civil official.
Holy Orders is the Sacrament by which a man enters each of the three orders of the clerical state. There are three recognized clerical orders -- those of deacons, presbyters (priests), and bishops. In the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, married men who are ordained to the diaconate do so with the intention of lifelong service as deacons to the People of God. Unmarried men may be ordained to the diaconate with the intention of remaining permanently in that order, or they may be preparing for subsequent ordination to the priesthood. A relatively small number of priests are ultimately called by the Church to ordination as bishops. Unmarried men who have been ordained as either deacons, priests, or bishops are expected to live a faithful celibate life.