The Sacraments


1. Why do Catholics believe in Sacraments?

Because the Bible teaches Sacraments. The Bible gives us certain Christian ceremonies that we are supposed to accomplish: everyone knows of Baptism and Holy Communion as examples of this. And as part of those ceremonies, grace is given to Christians through them. That's true whenever you do what God says, but particularly when you do what He commanded as ceremonies to distinguish His Church. Now you can call those ceremonies whatever you want; Catholics call them Sacraments, which means holy things.

2. True Christians worship in spirit and in truth. There's no room for material Sacraments.

If there was no room for material Sacraments, then Jesus wouldn't have given us material Sacraments. But He did. Anyone can pick up a Bible and find the Apostles and Jesus baptizing people with water and commanding others to do the same. And anyone can see that He commanded us to do Holy Communion in remembrance of Him. The other five Sacraments are all plainly there too. I think that what you are missing is this: worshiping God in spirit is not opposed to worshiping Him with material things involved. Because it is the Spirit that gives the interior disposition, and that is manifested in exterior acts, especially those that Jesus commanded, such as Baptism (for new Christians) and Holy Communion. The Spirit isn't opposed to using matter or ceremony; on the contrary, He commands it in the Bible.

3. Why do Catholics use the word Sacrament when it isn't in the Bible?

Because a word doesn't have to be in the Bible to be useful and proper. The Sacraments are ceremonies institued by God -- therefore they are holy. "Sacraments" simply means holy things. So the name fits the idea of what the Sacraments are, as ceremonies instituted by God. And the reason we don't use that word for other holy things is simply because the word "Sacraments" has become so connected to these particular holy things that when you call other things by that name, it doesn't fit.

4. Where in the Bible does it say there are seven of them?

It doesn't say there are seven. But if you count the ceremonies they did, that's the number you get, the ceremonies that were in use in the Church in the period of the New Testament. They are Baptism (Acts 2:38), Holy Communion (Acts 2:42), Confession (Acts 19:18), Confirmation (Acts 8:17), Holy Orders (Acts 14:23), Marriage (obviously), and Anointing of the Sick (James 5:14). Most of these were ceremonies given by Jesus directly (such as Baptism and Holy Communion), and others He made a specific version of for His Church. Marriage is an example of that, because when Jesus taught about marriage, He changed it from the Old Testament version and gave a new version in Mark 10:1-9, thus giving believers in the New Covenant (the Church) a version of marriage different from previous versions. But all of the Sacraments come from Jesus ultimately, and are only existent because the Church He started is supposed to be characterized as a public movement by certain public acts, or ceremonies, and these seven ceremonies and our beliefs about them are one of the things that distinguish Christianity from other religions.

5. Why do Catholics say Marriage is a Sacrament?

Because it is a ceremony of which Christianity has a special version given by Jesus in Mark 10:1-9. In that passage, He was asked for His teaching on marriage, and He plainly says that the Old Testament version was imperfect and so He is making a new version. He expected His Church to follow this version of marriage, and since it is a public institution, this distinct version of marriage became characteristic of Christianity. We know that through this ceremony Christians are granted special grace (because God blesses marriage), and so it fits the definition of a Sacrament: a public act or institution given by Christ that gives grace.

6. Why do Catholics say Confirmation is a Sacrament?

Because Confirmation is a ceremony that characterizes Christianity and gives grace. Christianity was started by Jesus and received its distinguishing features from Him as its founder, and Confirmation is included in that. According to the New Testament Acts 8:17, when a person is confirmed, i.e. when the priest or bishop lays hands on them and blesses them for full membership in the Church, the Holy Spirit comes down upon that person. And of course He makes them more holy, and binds them more closely to Himself. So grace is given through this ceremony, and it started with Jesus, and it is characteristic of Christianity that we do this -- that fits the definition of a Sacrament.

7. How can you prove that Confirmation was instituted by Christ?

In a number of ways. First, because this ceremony is a distinuishing feature of Christianity, and thus it has to date back to Jesus since He is the founder of Christianity and the creator of its form. Second, there is the circumstantial evidence: the Apostles all split up and went to different places, but everywhere they went, they all did this ceremony. That suggests that they were all given the idea before they left, when Jesus told them what to do. Third, because the Church teaches that Jesus instituted this ceremony, and the Church's teachings (the Bible says) are ratified in heaven (Matthew 18:18). So it must be true, since heaven supports it.

8. Why do Catholics say Confession is a Sacrament?

Because it dates back to Jesus and gives grace, the grace of forgiveness. This ceremony comes directly from John 20:23, and is obviously a distinguishing feature of Christianity -- no one else does it but us. And so it fits the definition of a Sacrament: a New Testament ceremony instituted by Christ to give grace.

9. Why do Catholics say Ordination is a Sacrament?

Because it's another ceremony given by Christ and practiced by the Church that gives its recipients special graces, the graces necessary for ordained ministry in the Church. We see Jesus giving or confirming the Apostles' ordained status in several places, especially John 20:21. And actually, the primary commission of Jesus' priests was given at the Lord's Supper, when He told them to do Holy Communion and to do it in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19). St. Paul later shows that it gives special graces when he is teaching about ordination in the Letters to Timothy, such as in 1 Tim. 4:14 and 2 Tim. 1:6.

10. Why do Catholics say Anointing of the Sick is a Sacrament?

Because it goes back to Jesus, gives grace, and characterizes Christianity as a unique ceremony. The Apostles did it in Mark 6:13 after Jesus sent them out as His ministers, and James 5:14-15 tells us plainly that the ceremony is part of the Church and can result in forgiveness and sometimes healing. Obviously God gives grace from doing this, so it fits the definition of a Sacrament, and is therefore a rite of the Church that has been there from the beginning.