The Catholic Church can be described as a sacramental Church, meaning, that we as Catholics, believe that everything is capable of embodying and communicating the divine, that all reality has a mysterious dimension and is imbued with God’s hidden presence. We as humans, however, are finite beings, and we can only communicate with God in finite, visible ways. The point at which this occurs is called the sacramental encounter. For Christians the point of sacramental encounter with God is Jesus Christ.

For Catholics especially, the Church also has an important mediating role to play. Just as Christ is the sacrament of encounter with God, so the Church is the sacrament of encounter with Christ. Sacraments are first of all a sign of faith and secondly a cause of grace, or rather, an outward sign of an inward grace. All this must sound very complicated, but it basically means that the signs become or cause what they signify, which is the specific grace.

More specifically, the Church fulfils this mediating role through the administration of seven sacraments, which can be subdivided as follows:

Sacraments of Initiation Confirmation

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • The Eucharist

Sacraments of Healing

  • Sacrament of Reconciliation (also called Confession or Penance)
  • Anointing of the Sick

Sacraments of Vocation or Commitment

  • Marriage
  • Holy Orders (ordination to the deaconate/priesthood)


To find out more about each of the individual sacraments, click on the relevant link

Source: Richard P. McBrien – Catholicism Volume II