Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Sacraments


 * Q. 304. What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.


 * Man, composed of body and soul, lives in the midst of visible things, deals with them constantly, and gains his knowledge from them. His knowledge of spiritual things depends on the use of his senses. It was fitting, therefore, that the sacraments, which were to bring man the supernatural, spiritual gifts of grace, be instituted by Christ as visible signs which could be perceived by man.

 * In each of the sacraments there is an outward sign, that is, some external thing or action called the matter, and a set formula of words known as the form. The matter and the form together make up the sign of each sacrament. In the sacrament of Baptism, for example, the matter consists in the water; and in its application to the person being baptized; the form is the sentence: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," which is said while the water is being poured.

 * When the sign is applied to the one who receives the sacrament, it signifies inward grace and has the power of producing it in the soul. The external action performed by the minister of the sacrament is called a sign of the inward grace because it signifies and represents outwardly what is produced inwardly and invisibly in the soul. The sacramental signs actually effect what they represent. In Baptism, for example, the application of the water and the pronouncing of the words are a sign which both represents the cleansing of the soul from sin and actually effects that cleansing.

 * The sacramental signs were instituted by Christ. Our Lord is the Author of all the sacraments. Only God can give to material things or to outward signs the power of producing grace in the soul

 * Although Christ instituted all seven sacraments before ascending into heaven, He did not completely specify the matter and form of all the sacraments as clearly and definitely as He did for Baptism and the Eucharist. Christ gave His Church the power to make certain determinations in the matter and form of some of the sacraments.


 * Q. 305. How many sacraments are there?
A. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.


 * Christ instituted seven sacraments to supply the various needs of the spiritual life of man. Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual rebirth; Confirmation is the sacrament of spiritual strength and maturity; the Holy Eucharist gives us food for spiritual nourishment; Penance is the cure for the spiritual sickness of sin committed after Baptism; Extreme Unction strengthens us when dying; Holy Orders provides for the work of the Church; and Matrimony provides for the social needs of the Church. Christ instituted the seven sacraments during His public ministry and after His Resurrection before ascending into heaven.


 * Q. 306. From whom do the sacraments receive their power to give grace?
A. The sacraments receive their power to give grace from God, through the merits of Jesus Christ.


 * All grace, including the grace of the sacraments, comes from God through Jesus Christ, who merited it for all men by His life, His passion, and His death.

 * God uses the seven sacraments as instruments to produce grace in our souls. Christ willed that the sacraments be administered by men who act in His name. Although faith and sanctity of life should characterize the minister, they are not required for the valid administration of the sacraments. That the minister validly confer the sacraments it is necessary: first, that he have the power of administering them; second, that he have jurisdiction for those sacraments which require it; third, that he perform all the essential ceremonies; fourth, that he have the intention of at least "doing what the Church does," that is, of performing the sacred ceremony that is usual among Catholics.

 * > "They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth as a propitiation by his blood through faith" (Romans 3:24-25).

 * > "Let a man so account us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1).


 * Q. 307. Do the sacraments give sanctifying grace?
A. The sacraments do give sanctifying grace.


 * > "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:54-55).

 * > "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John 20:22-23).

 * > "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter

 * > "For all you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).

 * > "For this reason I admonish thee to stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the laying of hands (2 Timothy 1:6).

 * > "He saved us through the bath of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).


 * Q. 308. Does each of the sacraments also give a special grace?
A. Each of the sacraments also gives a special grace, called sacramental grace, which helps one to carry out the particular purpose of that sacrament.


 * The sacramental grace of Baptism is a regenerative grace that helps us to live well the new supernatural life we have begun; the sacramental grace of Confirmation is a strengthening grace which helps us to profess our faith openly; the sacramental grace of Holy Eucharist is a nourishing and unitive grace that helps us to be united more closely to God and to one another by supernatural charity; the sacramental grace of Penance is a curative grace that helps us to detest sin effectively, to satisfy for sin committed , and to avoid future sin; the sacramental grace of Extreme Unction is an alleviating grace that comforts us in our last agony, and helps us to overcome final temptations; the sacramental grace of Holy Orders is a consecrating grace that helps bishops and priests to discharge the duties of the sacred ministry faithfully; the sacramental grace of Matrimony is a grace that helps the married couple to live chastely and to fulfill their duties to each other and to their children.


 * Q. 309. Do the sacraments always give grace?
A. The sacraments always give grace if we receive them with the right dispositions.


 * The sacraments, validly administered, always give grace to those who receive them with the right dispositions, because the power of the sacraments does not depend on anything human but solely on the will of God as expressed by Christ when He instituted them. The right dispositions do not produce the grace; they merely remove the obstacles that would prevent the reception of grace. The right dispositions, or the acts and habits required as conditions in order that the sacraments have their effect, vary with the different sacraments.

 * It is important to prepare fervently for the reception of the sacraments, because ordinarily they confer grace in proportion to our dispositions.

 * > "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27).

 * > "Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:1415).


 * Q. 310. Why are Baptism and Penance called sacraments of the dead?
A. Baptism and Penance are called sacraments of the dead because their chief purpose is to give the supernatural life of sanctifying grace to souls spiritually dead through sin.


 * The sacraments of the dead increase sanctifying grace when they are received by one who is already in the state of grace. Thus when a person who has only venial sins to confess receives absolution in the sacrament of Penance, he receives an increase of sanctifying grace.

 * > "Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

 * See also Scripture, question 307, John 20:22-23.


 * Q. 311. Why are Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony called sacraments of the living?
A. Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony are called sacraments of the living because their chief purpose is to give more grace to souls already spiritually alive through sanctifying grace.


 * Q. 312. What sin does one commit who knowingly receives a sacrament of the living in mortal sin?
A. He who knowingly receives a sacrament of the living in mortal sin commits a mortal sin of sacrilege, because he treats a sacred thing with grave irreverence.


 * See Scripture, question 309, 1 Corinthians 11:27.


 * Q. 313. Which are the sacraments that can be received only once?
A. The sacraments that can be received only once are Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.


 * Q. 314. Why can Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders be received only once?
A. Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders can be received only once because they imprint on the soul a spiritual mark, called a character, which lasts forever.


 * A character is a spiritual quality enabling a person to discharge the duty of worshiping God according to the laws of Christ and His Church. The character places on the soul the sign of Christ, the Eternal Priest, and gives the one who receives it a special position in the service of Christ. The indelible character received in Baptism enables one to receive the other sacraments; in Confirmation, the character enables one to profess the Christian faith before its enemies; in Holy Orders, the character enables one to consecrate oneself to the work of administering the sacraments to other persons.

 * The character imprinted on the soul by Baptism and Confirmation imposes the obligation of being a lay apostle, that is, of bringing the faith and the grace of Christ to others under the leadership and the guidance of the Pope and bishops.

 * Persons who have received a sacramental character are forever distinguished from those who have not received it. Thus it will forever be a mark of glory for those who are saved, but a mark of shame for those who are lost.

 * > "Now it is God who is warrant for us and for you in Christ, who has anointed us, who has also stamped us with his seal and has given us the Spirit as a pledge in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

 * > "And in him you too, when you had heard the word of truth, the good news of your salvation, and believed in it, were sealed with the Holy Spirit ... for a redemption of possession, for the praise of His Glory" ( 13:14).

 * > "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).




 * Before He ascended into heaven, Our Blessed Lord decided to establish means of communicating to the souls of men the graces He had merited by His life and death. For this purpose, Our Saviour willed to use external ceremonies, signs that could be perceived by men through their bodily senses. Human beings derive their knowledge by the use of their senses, and what appeals to their senses makes a greater impression than something that is perceived by the intellect alone; hence, Our Lord decided to suit His means of grace to man's nature. Accordingly, He instituted seven signs, or external ceremonies, capable of giving grace. He chose the particular signs to satisfy the most urgent spiritual needs of men. And, as will become more apparent in the lessons to follow, He adapted the sacraments to a plan of the spiritual life very similar to the course of man's natural life from the cradle to the grave.

 * A sacrament is an instrument of God's power and goodness. Just as an artist, using his brush as an instrument, paints a beautiful picture, so God through the sacraments draws His own image on the soul of man.

 * However, the sacraments give grace dependently on man's cooperation. It is true, when a child who has not reached the age of reason receives a sacrament, God gives him the graces of the sacrament without demanding any dispositions. But when a person has once reached the use of reason, he must do his part in order to be sanctified. Such a person cannot receive a sacrament validly-that is, really-unless he has at least a general intention of receiving it. The external rite could indeed be forced on him, but it would not be a real sacrament unless he consented to receive it. Moreover, one who has attained the age of reason cannot receive a sacrament fruitfully-that is, with its graces-unless he has in his soul suitable dispositions as a becoming preparation. Generally speaking, the disposition required of an adult for the reception of a sacrament of the dead-that is Baptism or Penance-is sorrow for sin based on faith; and the essential disposition for a worthy reception of one of the sacraments of the living is the possession of the state of sanctifying grace.

 * However, it is generally believed that if a person in mortal sin receives a sacrament of the living, unaware of his unworthiness and with imperfect contrition for his mortal sins, he will receive the state of grace. This is certain in regard to Extreme Unction, for St. says, of the sick person who receives this sacrament, "If he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:15).

 * Most of the sacraments can be administered only by a priest or a bishop. However, two of them-Baptism and Matrimony-can be administered by laymen, as we shall see in the lessons on these sacraments. The Holy Eucharist can be consecrated by no one except a priest; but after it is consecrated, one who is not a priest can administer it. Ordinarily the Church allows only priests and (under certain conditions) deacons to give Holy Communion, but in extraordinary circumstances even a lay-person would be permitted to administer the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, any Catholic could consume the Holy Eucharist or give it to another Catholic, if this were necessary to prevent it from being profaned; and if no priest could be had, and the Blessed Sacrament were available, a layman would be allowed to administer Holy Communion as Viaticum to one in danger of death.

 * Sometimes a priest administers a sacrament conditionally-that is, with the intention of conferring it only on condition that certain circumstances of which he is uncertain, are present. Thus, if a priest, baptizing a baby, is not certain whether or not the child has been previously baptized, he administers the sacrament with the condition: "If you are not baptized." If a priest, called to a person who has been seriously injured, is not sure whether or not the person is still living, he gives Extreme Unction with the condition: "If you are alive."

 * Our Lord Himself instituted the seven sacraments for our sanctification, but the Church has instituted various rites and ceremonies for the administration of the sacraments, to manifest more clearly their significance and to impress us more deeply with their holiness.




 * Resolve to be reverent and devout toward the sacraments, and never to receive them carelessly or through routine; above all, resolve never to be guilty of the grave sacrilege of receiving a sacrament unworthily.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 23





 * (Select the word or phrase in the parentheses which most exactly and most completely fills out the sentence).


 * The words used by the person who administers a sacrament are called (the matter ... the form ... the character).

 * For a priest to administer the sacraments validly he needs (the intention of doing what the Church does ... faith ... sanctity of life).

 * Christ instituted all the sacraments (before He began His public ministry ... before His death ... before His ascension).

 * Penance is called a sacrament of the dead because (only a person whose soul is dead in sin can receive it ... it must be received by everyone in danger of death ... it is intended chiefly to give the life of sanctifying grace to souls dead in mortal sin).

 * The sacramental grace of Confirmation helps us (to profess our faith openly ... to avoid sin in future ... to be united more closely with God).

 * A person who knowingly receives a sacrament of the living in mortal sin commits a sin of (blasphemy ... sacrilege ... perjury).

 * The sacramental character of Baptism (endures forever in all who have received it ... passes away with death ... remains in the saints but not in the souls condemned to hell).

 * To receive the sacrament of Baptism validly a person having the use of reason must have (faith ... sorrow for sin ... the intention of receiving it).

 * A person is made capable of receiving the other sacraments besides Baptism by (the character of Baptism ... the grace of Baptism ... the profession of the Catholic faith).

 * A person who receives a sacrament of the living in mortal sin but unaware of his unworthiness will receive sanctifying grace if he has (faith ... the use of reason ... imperfect contrition).




 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Why are external ceremonies, namely, the sacraments, properly used for transmitting God's grace to our souls?

 * Explain to eighth grader Myrtle why Our Lord decided to suit His means of grace to our human nature.

 * Describe in your own words the sacramental grace of each of the seven sacraments.

 * In the commentary, references are made to an artist, his brush, and a beautiful picture. What point is brought out by these references?

 * At what stage in life do the sacraments begin to require dispositions on our part in order that we may receive their benefits?

 * Glenn, an unbeliever, is anxious to marry Claudia, a good Catholic. Accordingly, he takes instructions, receives Baptism and Holy Communion, and marries Claudia at a nuptial Mass. He willingly receives these sacred rites, but he does not believe in them. Has he received these sacraments validly? Has he received them fruitfully?

[THE LESSONS 23:67-74]

 * What is meant by the expressions: "to receive a sacrament fruitfully ... to receive a sacrament validly?"

 * Generally speaking, what is the disposition required in one who has attained the use of reason, for the fruitful reception of the sacraments of the dead?

 * What is the essential disposition for a worthy reception of one of the sacraments of the living?

 * Which of the sacraments may be administered by lay persons?

 * Julia, a novice, is kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in a convent chapel of an obscure town in Eastern Europe. All the nuns and novices are in lay disguise on account of the persecution raging there. The convent is in a private house. At 3:00 o'clock one afternoon a friendly warning is given them that their presence has been discovered. There is no time to lose. Mother Superior asks the fervent novice, Julia, remarkable for her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, to open the Tabernacle, and to distribute the Communions reserved in the Ciborium to the members of the community, including herself. Each of the Sisters and novices receives four of the Sacred Particles. Write a paragraph from five to seven sentences commenting on the episode.

 * What can the sacramental grace of Baptism do for you?

 * Silas, a happy-go-lucky lad in the seventh grade, wants to know what is the use of going to confession every two weeks, as Brother St. Lawrence O'Toole advises. Silas rightly claims he doesn't commit mortal sins. Tell Silas why the Brother recommends confession fortnightly.

 * The night before her wedding, Viola is so thoroughly concerned with her appearance and her appointment at the hairdresser's that she completely forgets to go to confession. Unhappily, she is in mortal sin at the time of the ceremony, but she doesn't realize it until after the honeymoon. Now she is greatly upset about the whole matter and does not want to risk her salvation. Was her marriage sacrilegious? Is she really married? Add a reason to both answers.

 * Father Tugwell enjoys a rare distinction. He has received during the past 73 years all of the seven sacraments. Explain how that is possible.


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