Question: How many sacraments are there?
Answer: In Catholic teaching, there are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation (Confession), Holy Orders, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick.

The two central sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist.  We say they are central because both of them connect the Christian with the death and resurrection of Christ.

Baptism is a purification ritual of washing and immersion which the Church regards as an entry into the cleansing waters that purify us of sin.  Baptism is the ritual that admits people into membership of the Body of Christ, the Church.  In the Catholic tradition, children receive baptism because they are to grow to be full members of the Church and the life of grace should begin early.  

The Eucharist, or Mass, centres on the bread and wine which Christ gave to his disciples at the Last Supper in order to give them a share in the blessings that flow from his atoning death for sins.  Taking part in the Eucharist is the central thing which Christians do.  When you receive Holy Communion, you receive Christ himself, the great High Priest who offers himself to God for the sins of all and who is then given by God to us to be our bread of life and the covenant of mercy between God and us.  

In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit is given to us.  The Spirit is divine love poured into our hearts, enabling us to be children of God.  It is the sign of the Father’s love for us, and it shapes us as disciples of Christ.  Because we receive the Holy Spirit, we can share Christ’s prayer to God, ‘Abba’, our loving Father.  

In Reconciliation or Confession, Christ forgives our sins.  Through the ministry of the priest, and in the name of the Church, the forgiveness that flows from the death of Christ is directed towards us in our weakness and sinfulness.  When you receive the words of absolution from the priest, you can be confident that your sins are forgiven and are covered by Christ’s love.  Christ has taken your sins into his heart.

The sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament of apostolic ministry in the name and power of Christ.  It is given to bishops, priests and deacons to enable them to act in Christ’s name, to build up the Church, to serve baptised Christians in particular ways and to conduct a mission to all human beings.  

The sacrament of Marriage is unique because it is not primarily a ritual.  The love between husband and wife, committing themselves exclusively to one another for life and sharing a home and family, is the sacrament or sign of divine love.  Their love for one another is a sign of the love that Christ has for his bride, the Church: that is why Christians see married love as permanent.  

The sacrament of Anointing the Sick brings to the sick or dying person the strength and love of Christ in order to help them physically and spiritually.  The risen Christ is with us in our physical weakness and, when God so wills, takes us into heaven to share in his resurrection.

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