"The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1131)
A sacrament is defined as a sign from Christ by which He comes to us and gives us His life and love. The sign may be clearly expressed in the Bible or the result of the Church’s experience and reflection. In every sacrament, Christ acts through the signs and speaks through Scripture. Because Christ is truly present through the sacraments, they have an effect in our lives.
By the 13th century, the Church recognized seven signs, or sacraments, that had been given us by Christ. The Council of Trent declared them to be Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. The Catechism of the Catholic Church divides the Sacraments into three groups:
- Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist
- Sacraments of Healing: Penance & Anointing of the Sick
- Sacraments at the Service of Communion and the Mission of the Faithful: Holy Orders & Matrimony