Well, what do Catholics believe? Reading the press or watching TV you might think that it doesn’t stretch much past some weird old-fashioned shibboleths about sex (gosh, you mean they don’t think it’s all right to sleep with whoever you want?) and babies (don’t you know it’s just a clump of cells?). And it’s true, these are important parts of Catholic belief. But they’re not what comes first. In fact, there’s no great secret to Catholic belief at all: it’s proclaimed at each Mass, you know in that bit that begins ‘We believe in one God…’ The Creed. There we have the core of our faith, and from this all else flows.

The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden. GK Chesterton .

Christ claims you for his ownGo therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age
(Matthew 28:19). 

These last words of Christ, which close Matthew’s gospel, give the disciples a commission – nothing less than to inaugurate a new age, build a new creation, founded on Christ and his teaching. Baptism will be the foundation of this new creation and a lasting mark that we belong to Christ.

Undergoing the RCIA course

For those of us not baptised as children, joining the Catholic Church involves attending the RCIA course. This culminates in baptism, confirmation and first Communion. These three sacraments are bestowed at the Easter Vigil service each year, and not at other times, as the Easter service is the time for all to reflect on their baptismal promises.

Life bloodI attended the RCIA course at Our Lady of Lourdes which started in September 2006 and continued until Pentecost in May 2007. Each week after the 9.45am Sunday service a class was held, lasting up to an hour, in which we considered some aspect of the faith, for instance each of the sacraments, prayer, Mary, the creation.

This year two of us completed the course, Lucie and me. Also attending were Phil, Doff, Jan, Auxilia, and Ossie, acting as sponsors and support, and Aileen who led the classes. Father Tom and Father Damian also led on a few occasions.

Heaven meets EarthThis is the first of a series of short articles on the sacraments. It is intended for Catholics who want to reflect more deeply on their faith and practice and for non-Catholics who are curious about the Catholic faith and want to know more.

Before considering the individual sacraments in the life of the Church one needs first to develop some understanding of what the sacraments have in common, what the essence of a sacrament is. In the simplest terms, sacraments are effective signs of God’s love – they not only point to God’s grace they communicate it to us. But this simple statement hides the full richness of the Church’s teaching.

The word, “sacrament”, comes from the Latin, “sacramentum”, which simply means, “to make sacred”. The Latin term is a translation of the Greek, “mysterion”, used by Paul to refer to God’s plan of salvation which was fulfilled in Christ. (This is why we often refer to the sacraments as mysteries – the term used by the Eastern Churches.) For centuries after Christ the Western Church used the term “sacrament” to refer to this great “mystery” of God’s self- revelation in Christ. Gradually the Church came to associate this great mystery with specific actions by which God’s love and redemptive work is communicated to us. These are the seven sacraments of the Church.