What is a Sacrament?

Many definitions of sacrament have been offered but in the broadest sense, a sacrament is a sign of God’s grace, love and presence. By this definition there are many things could be considered sacraments. St. Augustine stated that a sacrament is a “visible sign of invisible grace.” Again, we see with Augustine’s definition of sacrament many things can be considered a sacrament.

In the early Church there was a range of opinion about what exactly constituted a sacrament. For instance, some thought that foot washing should be considered a sacrament of initiation. The Gospel of John notes the following exchange between Peter and Jesus,

Peter said, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share in me.” (Jn 13:8-9)

Others in the early Church thought that there were dozens of sacraments some thought there were only two. Today, the Church recognizes seven sacraments, but also speaks of Jesus and the Church as sacraments.

Though there are many definitions of sacrament, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates seven sacraments that are at the center of our lives as Catholics. Those Sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation, Holy Orders and Marriage.


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