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All content from this section taken from "The Essential Catholic Handbook" by John Cardinal O'Connor with cross references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  


Through symbolic immersion in the waters of baptism, you are "grafted into the paschal mystery of Christ."  In a mysterious way, you "die with him, are buried with him, and rise with him" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 6).  (CCC 1086)

As a baptized Christian, you are an adopted brother or sister of Christ, "hid with Christ in God," but a visible member of his Body.  (CCC 1266)

Having died to sin (both original sin and personal sins are cleansed away in the waters of baptism), you have entered the community of the Church" as through a door."  Your indelible baptism into Christ was the beginning of a unique lifelong vocation.  (CCC 1214-16, 1263-64, 1271)

Many people exercise their baptism calling through parish activities.  People serve as distributors of Holy Communion, lectors, commentators, choir members, ushers, servers, members of church councils (Parish, Finance, Fiesta, etc.), and many other parish groups.  Some serve the spiritual and community life of their parishes by teaching religion (catechism) and taking part in adult-education programs.  (CCC 911, 913) 


Confirmation is the sacrament by which those born anew in baptism receive the seal of the Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Father.  Along with baptism and the Eucharist, confirmation is a sacrament of initiation - in this case, initiation into the life of adult Christian witness.  The deepened presence of the Spirit, who comes to us in this sacrament, is meant to sustain us in a lifetime of witness to Christ and service to others.  (CCC 1285-1314)

In the act of Confirmation, the celebrant would moisten his thumb with chrism (blessed mixture of olive oil and balsam) and trace the sign of the cross on your forehead.  This act is the laying on of hands, which is an actual part of the sacrament going back to the time of the apostles.  The celebrant says "be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit."  The word Gift, is spelled with a capital, because the Gift we receive in this sacrament is the Spirit himself.  (CCC 1293)

Penance (Reconciliation)

Penance is the sacrament by which we receive God's healing forgiveness for sins committed after baptism.  The rite is called "reconciliation" because it reconciles us not only with God but with the Church community.  Both these aspects of reconciliation are important.  (CCC1468-70)

As members of Christ's Body, everything we do affects the whole Body.  Sin wounds and weakens the Body of Christ; the healing we receive in penance restores health and strength to the Church, as well as to ourselves.

When a person turns aside or away from God's love, the harm is to the sinner.  Venial sin strains one's relationship with God.  Mortal sin ruptures the relationship.  (CCC 1854-63)

When you confess your sins sincerely, with true sorrow and resolution not to sin again, God rejoices.  The Pharisees depicted in Luke's Gospel were stern, rigid men - stricter judges than God.  In contrast, the Father revealed by Jesus is almost too good to be true.  And so is Jesus himself, whom you meet in this sacrament.  Like Father, like Son.  In penance Jesus embraces and heals you.  (CCC 1441-42)


In matrimony a husband and wife are called to love each other in a very practical way: by serving each other's most personal needs; by working seriously at communicating their personal thoughts and feelings to each other so their oneness is always alive and growing.  

In matrimony a couple is also called to live their sacrament for others.  By their obvious closeness, a couple affects the lives of others with "something special" - the love of Christ in our midst.  They reveal Christ's love and make it contagious to their children and to all who come into contact with them.  A major purpose and natural outcome of matrimony is the beginning of new life - children.  But a couple's love also gives life - the life of Christ's Spirit - to other people.  (CCC 2366-2367)

Holy Orders (Ministerial Priesthood)

The Church is the Body of Christ.  As such, the whole Church shares in the nature of and tasks of Christ, our Head.  This include sharing in his priesthood.  (CCC 787-96, 1268, 1546)

Each type of priesthood - common or ministerial - is a sharing in the priesthood of Christ.  And both types are related to each other.  But there is a basic difference between them.  In the eucharistic sacrifice, for example, the ordained priest acts "in the person of Christ" and others the sacrifice to God in the name of all, and the people join with the priest in that offering.  The two roles - of priest and people - go together.  (CCC 901-3)

Priests baptize, heal, forgive sin in the sacrament of penance, and act as the Church's witness in the sacraments of matrimony and anointing of the sick.  Priests celebrate the Eucharist, which is "the center of the assembly of the faithful over which the priest presides."  (CCC 1565-68).

Deacons also have a special sharing in the sacrament of holy orders.  The diaconate, conferred by a bishop, is received as the first stage in ordination by those who go on to the priesthood.  Since the Second Vatican Council, however, the ancient order of deacon has been restored in the Roman Catholic Church as an office in its own right.  Many dioceses now have deacons who do not go on to become priests.  They are known, therefore, as permanent deacons.  Working under the authority of the local bishop, permanent deacons serve the people of God at the direction of priests in parishes.  (CCC 1569-71)


In every Mass, Christ is present, both in person of his priest and especially under the form of bread and wine.  In every Mass, his death becomes a present reality, offered as our sacrifice to God in an unbloody and sacramental manner.  As often as the sacrifice of the cross is celebrated on an altar, the work of our redemption is carried on.  (CCC 1333, 1350, 1372)

At Mass we offer Christ, our Passover sacrifice, to God, and we offer ourselves along with him.  We then receive the risen Lord, our bread of life, in Holy Communion.  In so doing, we enter into the very core of the paschal mystery of our salvation - the death and Resurrection of Christ.  (CCC 1330, 1356-1359)

If you prepare for it with care and enter into it with living faith, the Eucharist can draw you into the compelling love of Christ and set you afire.  When you go out from the sacred mystery, you know you were caught up in it if you "grasp by deed what you hold by creed."  And if you return to the place where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, Christ present in the tabernacle, you can regain your sense of the fathomless love of which his presence there silently speaks.  (CCC 1066-73)







O'Connor, J (1997).  The Essential Catholic Handbook: A Summary of Beliefs, Practices, and Prayers.  Liguori Publications.