CFoYC, part 2, the sacraments
So as mentioned in the comments on the last one, there’s a wide variation of what’s done on Fridays during the year and during Lent. Consult your local bishop for details, since it seems to go by bishop and by country. We’re required to abstain on Fridays during the year and Lent. We’re also encouraged to fast on Fridays during Lent (but not required.) Also N.B., I’m not discussing sex, homosexuality, abortion, or birth control here. They’ve been talked to death; they always lead to arguments; and they’re not very interesting.
Welcome back to “Care and Feeding of Your Catholic!” This installment is a whirlwind tour through life as a Catholic: the sacraments, or how to get hatched, matched, and dispatched.
1.) A sacrament is an outward sign of an inner grace given by Christ for our salvation. We’ve got seven: baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation, marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. Your Catholic will most probably have received four of them, possibly five.
2.) Baptism: this is how a Catholic enters the Church. Generally this is done shortly after birth, and it’s necessary for all other sacraments. It’s also to free the person from sin. It’s also a promise from the community to support the person in their faith. Some parishes are doing baptisms during Masses, others do them at special Masses. For the most part, the “ordinary” ministers of baptism are priests and bishops, although in a pinch anyone can, so long as he/she has the right intentions and baptizes the person using the Trinitarian formula. (I was baptized immediately after birth, for instance, by a nurse in the hospital.)
3.) There’s also a baptism of desire–a person wishes to be baptized, but dies before it happens, or a baptism of blood–namely martyrdom. It’s preferable to enroll someone in RCIA, rather than killing them.
4.) Reconciliation: (used to be called confession when I was in CCD) confession of sins. It doesn’t take away the effects of it, but is to help lessen the consequence. Catholics are required to confess all mortal sins once a year at the bare minimum. If you have to think about whether or not you committed a mortal sin, you probably didn’t–they take full participation and knowledge.
5.) Catholics have the option of either private (in the booth thingy) or face-to-face. Personally I’m claustrophobic. I like telling people I’ve never been in a confessional in my life. The priest is also commanded (under pain of instant excommunication) to never divulge that which is told to him in a confession. It’s really not as scary as you might think. I’ve never been berated or made fun of. At the time, I’ve always heard what I’ve needed to hear.
6.) The Eucharist. (This is a biggie and will get its own.)
7.) Most Latin-rite Catholics receive the first three sacraments by the time they’re 7 years old. If they’re Byzantine or come from an Orthodox church, odds are they were baptized, confirmed, and received the Eucharist all at once as an infant. In the Roman rite, babies are anointed after baptism with chrism–the oil also used in confirmation.
8.) Confirmation: this is a fulfillment of one’s baptismal promises and a maturation of one’s faith. It’s always done by the bishop, unless permission is given to a priest. Priests almost always do confirmations on the Easter vigil. Chrism–one of the oils is used. This one is easy to tell apart from the other two, since it smells like balsam. (You have to look closely to tell apart the oil of the infirm and oil of the catechumenate, and hope you grabbed the right jar.) It’s becoming rarer, but most Catholics would take another name at their confirmation, some saint they admired or wanted to emulate. (Mine’s Hildegard.) Generally a person is confirmed at 11-18. It all depends on when your bishop says people should be confirmed. Confirmation always happens in the context of a Mass.
9.) The sacraments are reversed if one is coming into the Church as an adult: people will be baptized first, then confirmed, then given their first Eucharist, the way it’s done in Eastern churches.
10.) Marriage: gettin’ hitched. Like all other sacraments, it has an ordinary minister–the couple themselves. The priest and others are just witnesses to the vows. There isn’t an extra-ordinary minister. That would be too kinky. Marriage almost always happens at a Mass, but it doesn’t have to. (The Hoopy Frood and I probably won’t, since I’d be the only one there able to receive Communion. Neither one of us want a huge affair, anyway.)
11.) Holy orders: Ordination.
I believe the vows women religious fall under this sacrament, as well, although it’s not as clear. (And I’m at work, so I can’t double check it.) Bishops are the ordinary ministers for it. If you get a chance to see an ordination or solemn profession, go. They’re generally gorgeous affairs with lots of happy people. (Chrism–and lots of it–is used at this one. )
12.) Anointing of the sick: this used to be called last rites, since it was generally only done right before a person died. The ordinary for this is a priest or a bishop. (To my knowledge, there’s no extra-ordinary minister.) Generally now it’s suggested it’s done any time a person’s quality of life is negatively impacted–surgery is definitely a time, as is dealing with any serious illness (mental or physical.) It’s not meant to cure a person–although miraculous cures have sometimes been reported–but it’s meant to give them the strength to deal with their illness. Hopefully the priest or altar server grabbed the right jar–the oil of the infirm. Generally this one’s done in private, although there may be special Masses at which it’s given.
13.) Of these, baptism, confirmation, marriage, and holy orders are only done once over the course of a person’s life. Baptisms by all other denominations except Mormons and Jehova’s Witnesses are considered valid. Marriages by other denominations are considered valid, but not sacramental (they need a renewing of vows before a priest to be sacramental.) Holy orders, it depends on if your bishops are part of our apostolic succession.
14.) All other sacraments may be repeated, sometimes daily. If you go to confession daily, your priest may talk to you about scruples. A priest might also wonder if something’s up if you ask for the anointing of the sick every day.
15.) A sacramental is not a sacrament. It’s an object (generally blessed). Or an action (like blessing one’s self with holy water, although the water itself may be a sacramental.) Where sacraments are limited to Catholics, anyone can have/use a sacramental.