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What is a sacrament?

October 3, 2009

What is a sacrament? What isn’t a sacrament in the Catholic Church?

There are seven sacraments in the Church, baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance or reconciliation, extreme unction or the anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. The sacraments are aids to our salvation; they are necessary for our salvation; they point us to what is sacred. They are earthly signs that Christ has given us that allow us to receive His grace. While the sacraments have to be administered properly and be well intended, the grace they bestow on us is purely reliant on the power of Christ.

For example, we must be in a state of grace in order to properly receive Holy Communion on Sunday. If we didn’t go to Mass the Sunday prior, just because we were busy with other things, then we are not in a state of grace the following week. We disobeyed the third commandment, keep holy the Sabbath. How do we get ourselves back to that state of grace in order to receive the Eucharist then? We must go to Confession and confess our sins (guide for examination of conscience), explicitly stating that we didn’t go to Mass. The priest, in persona Christi, will then absolve us of our sins and we are back in a state of grace.

I have seen the question posted, is the Shroud of Turin a sacrament? No. The Shroud is a relic, an artifact. There are many people that believe it is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, the clean linen cloth provided by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:59-60), but the Catholic Church cannot and will not make an official ruling on the Shroud’s authenticity. It is leaving that determination to science, and there is some very convincing science that says it is indeed the Shroud of Jesus Christ. It may help some individuals strengthen their faith, which is a very good thing, but it is not a sacrament, it is not an aid to salvation.

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