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The Faith

A Popular Guide Based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church

by John A. Hardon, S.J.

Part Two: The Celebration of the Sacred Mystery



Chapter One:  The Paschal Mystery in the Time of the Church

   Article 1: The Liturgy—Work of the Holy Trinity
   Article 2: The Paschal Mystery in the Sacraments of the Church

Chapter Two:  Sacramental Celebration of the Paschal Mystery

   Article 1: Celebrating the Liturgy of the Church
   Article 2: Liturgical Diversity and Unity of the Mystery


Chapter One:  The Sacraments of Christian Initiation

   Article 1: Baptism
   Article 2: Confirmation
   Article 3: The Eucharist

Chapter Two:  The Sacraments of Healing

   Article 4: Penance and Reconciliation
   Article 5: Anointing of the Sick

Chapter Three:  The Sacraments in the Service of Communion

   Article 6: Holy Orders
   Article 7: Matrimony

Chapter Four:  Other Celebrations of the Liturgy

   Article 1: Sacramentals
   Article 2: Christian Funerals


The liturgy proclaims and celebrates the mysteries professed in the Apostles’ Creed, notably the paschal mystery by which Christ redeemed the world.
Liturgy literally means a public service by and for the people. Theologically, the liturgy is both a participation of the Christian faithful in Christ’s work of redemption, and Christ’s continuing His work of our redemption in, with, and by the Church.
The liturgy is therefore rightly considered the exercise of Christ’s priesthood, in which man’s sanctification is signified and realized in ways proper to each sensibly perceptible liturgical sign.
Liturgical catechesis is instruction in the liturgy on two levels: as mystery and celebration in general, and as sacraments and sacramentals in particular.


Section I: The Sacramental Economy

The expression “sacramental economy” simply means the communication or dispensation of the fruits of Christ’s paschal mystery through the celebration of the sacramental liturgy.
It is therefore necessary to explain the meaning of this sacramental dispensation and the essential features of liturgical celebrations.


Chapter One: The Paschal Mystery in the Time of the Church

Our task here is to see how the liturgy is the work of the Holy Trinity. This will be viewed from the perspective of each of the three divine Persons: the Father as the source and goal of the liturgy; Christ’s role in the liturgy; and the Holy Spirit working with the Church in the liturgy.

Article 1: The Liturgy—Work of the Holy Trinity

474.How is God the Father the source of the liturgy?

In the same way that He is the source of all creation; the blessings of the liturgy are the words and gifts of God the Father to us. We give Him our blessing as our Creator by responding to His grace.


475.How does the Father manifest His blessings?

He has done so from the dawn of human history, as recounted in the Old Testament. Noah and Abraham, Isaac and David, the Chosen People, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms are all revealed witnesses to how God has blessed those who believed in Him before the coming of Christ. The Christian liturgy preserves the record of these blessings and responds to them in faith and love.


476.What is Christ’s work in the liturgy?

Christ, now at the right hand of the Father, pours out the blessings of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of the Church. Indeed, the risen Savior communicates the supernatural gifts that He won for us on Calvary by all the channels of His grace, through the Church that He founded on the Apostles. Paramount among these channels is the Holy Eucharist, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.


477.How is Christ present in the earthly liturgy?

He is always present in his Church, but especially in her liturgical celebrations. Most especially He is present when He offers Himself to His heavenly Father in the Sacrifice of the Mass. He is fully present in the Holy Eucharist. By His power, He is present in the sacraments as well as in the Sacred Scriptures when they are read in the Church. In fact, He is present whenever two or three are gathered together in His name.


478.What is the heavenly liturgy?

The heavenly liturgy is the celebration of God’s praises by the whole company of angels and saints in the holy city of Jerusalem.


479.How does the Holy Spirit work in the Church’s liturgy?

He is the Teacher whom Christ promised. He enlightens our faith and inspires our response. Provided we respond to His illuminations and inspirations, He unites us in a loving community in the Church and enables us to live the risen life of Christ.


480.How does the Holy Spirit prepare us for Christ?

He does so by enabling Christ’s followers to see the Old Testament as a preparation for the New. He does so by using the Church’s liturgy to prepare us to see Christ in one another, to love on another in spite of our differences of race, color, and personality. He does so by the light and strength of His grace to receive the blessings of the liturgy, especially of the Eucharist, which Christ won for us by His paschal mystery.


481.How is the Holy Spirit the Church’s memory?

Mainly in two ways. The Holy Spirit enlightens the minds of the faithful to understand the words of the liturgy, including the inspired words of Scripture. And the Spirit awakens in the hearts of the assembly the memory of the events that the liturgy commemorates, so they can unite themselves with these events in thanking and praising God.


482.How does the Holy Spirit actualize the mystery of Christ?

He does so by making the liturgy the source of His grace. Most importantly, it is by the power of the same Holy Spirit that Mary conceived her Divine Son at Nazareth and that the elements of bread and wine are changed at Mass into the living Christ offering Himself to His heavenly Father.


483.What is the communion of the Holy Spirit?

This is the spiritual union, produced by the Holy Spirit, between Christ and his people. Since the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Mystical Body, it is only logical to see the Holy Spirit, like the juice of the wine that is Christ, invigorating us, the branches, with the supernatural life and making us heirs of heaven and children of God.


Article 2: The Paschal Mystery in the Sacraments of the Church

The Church’s whole liturgical life revolves around the Sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacraments.


Our focus here will be on the Church’s doctrine on the seven sacraments, namely, Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance (or Reconciliation), Anointing of the Sick, Orders, and Marriage.
We shall first look at the sacraments in general, and then reflect on each sacrament in particular.

484. How are the sacraments, sacraments of Christ?

They are sacraments of Christ because they were all instituted personally by Christ during His visible stay on earth. They are the foundations of the grace that He makes accessible through the Church. They are so many powers flowing from the Body of Christ, as actions of the Holy Spirit at work in the Body, which is the Church.


485. How are the sacraments, sacraments of the Church?

They are the sacraments of the Church because they are dispensed by the Church, and they are dispensed for the Church’s growth in Christ. Thus, through Baptism and Confirmation, the faithful are enabled to celebrate the liturgy. Those in Holy Orders are to feed the Church with God’s word and His grace. That is why these three sacraments confer an indelible character as a permanent seal of assimilation to Christ. Moreover, these three sacraments cannot be repeated.


486. Why are the sacraments, sacraments of faith?

They are sacraments of faith because it is the faith of the Church in the sacraments that Sacred Tradition has preserved the sacraments in her liturgy. Moreover, it is the faith of the Church’s believers that underlies their use of the sacraments since apostolic times. The Church’s faith in the sacraments makes the sacramental liturgy determined by the authority of Christ. Finally, all progress in the restoration of Christian unity depends on fidelity to Christ’s teaching on the sacraments which He instituted.


487. How are the sacraments, sacraments of salvation?

They are sacraments of salvation because they confer the grace they signify. Without grace, there is no salvation. The sacraments actually confer the grace that the liturgical ritual signifies. Invariably, just because a sacrament is properly administered, grace is received. In this light, it is no wonder the Church teaches that for believers, the sacraments are necessary for salvation.


488. How are the sacraments, sacraments of eternal life?

They are sacraments of eternal life twice over.
    • Already in this life, those who receive the sacraments possess by anticipation the gift of divine life, which they are to enjoy in a blessed eternity.

    • Through the sacraments, the faithful are assured the graces they need on earth in order to enter into eternal glory in the life to come.


Chapter Two: Sacramental Celebration of the Paschal Mystery

As we enter the wide field of sacramental celebration, we divide our subject into four logical areas. We ask:
    • Who celebrates the sacraments?
    • How do we celebrate the sacraments?
    • When do we celebrate?
    • Where do we celebrate?
Immediately, a pointed question should be answered. Why speak of “celebrating” the sacraments? Why not “administering” or “receiving” the sacraments? Because to “celebrate” includes their conferral and reception. Not only that, “celebration” adds the critical fact that the sacraments are acts of divine worship by which we honor God and in which the Church herself is liturgically involved.


Article 1: Celebrating the Liturgy of the Church

489.In the widest sense, who celebrates the liturgy?

In is all of creation, beginning with the heavenly hosts of angels and saints, and extending to the whole universe, which glorifies the Creator.


490. Who celebrates the liturgy on earth?

It is the whole Church. The basis for this ecclesial celebration is that in every sacrament, Christ is acting as head of the Mystical Body, which is the Church.


491. Do all members of the church have the same function in the sacramental liturgy?

No, because not all have been called by God to participate in the sacraments in the same way. This is especially true of the Eucharistic Liturgy, which only ordained priests can celebrate.


492.What is the role of liturgical ministries outside of Holy Orders?

Their function is to participate in the liturgy according to the Church’s traditions and her pastoral needs.


493.Does the whole assembly participate in the liturgy?

Yes, each according to his office, and all together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, who is active in every participant.


494.What is the place of signs and symbols?

They are sensibly perceptible words, actions, and objects that express the meaning of each sacramental celebration. They are drawn from human experience, where God is constantly speaking to us by means of sensibly perceptible creation. But they have been elevated by Christ to express the mysteries of His work of salvation and sanctification.


495. What are the signs of the old covenant?

They are the symbols the Church has adapted to her own sacramental liturgy. Thus, anointing, laying on of hands, consecrations, and sacrifices in the Old Testament prefigure the corresponding sacramental signs of the new covenant.


496. What are the signs used by Christ?

They are the words and actions of Christ by which He revealed the mysteries of the New Testament. They were at once a fulfillment of the prophetic signs of the Old Law and a preparation for the New.


497. What are sacramental signs?

They are the sensibly perceptible means by which the Holy Spirit sanctifies the people of God through the sacraments.


498.What do liturgical actions express?

They express both God’s word and His readiness to bless His people and their faithful willingness to respond to His love.


499.How is the Liturgy of the Word related to liturgical actions?

The Liturgy of the Word includes everything associated with the Scriptures (including books, candles, incense, readings, and the homily). Its role is to serve as a channel of instruction by the Holy Spirit, which leads to the fruitful reception of the sacraments.


500.How important are liturgical song and music?

So important that the Church considers them invaluable treasures and greater than any other art. This, as attested by St. Paul, goes back to the earliest days of the Church and is expressed by St. Augustine’s statement that “he who sings, prays twice” (Eph 5:19). It is assumed that both the words to be sung and the music itself are consistent with Catholic teaching.


501. What is the significance of sacred images?

Sacred images are representations in painting or sculpture of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, or the saints. Solemnly defended by the Church’s teaching authority, sacred images are a great help in conveying the truths of our faith and inspiring the believing mind with devotion to Christ, His Mother, the angels, and the saints.


502. What is liturgical time?

Liturgical time is a certain day (or other period of time) that already in the Old Testament was specially dedicated to the corporate worship of God. Since the coming of Christ, the Church has consistently set aside certain days or seasons for believers to express their common profession of faith and devotion to the Savior, His Mother, and the holy ones of God.


503. What is the Lord’s Day?

The Lord’s Day, from apostolic times, celebrates the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. It is, par excellence, the day for liturgical assembly, when the faithful gather together to hear the Word of God and participate in the Holy Eucharist. Called Sunday, after the pagan “day of the sun,” it is a weekly commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection and special reception of the graces He won for us by His passion and death.


504. What is the liturgical year?

With Easter, “the feast of feasts,” as its center, the liturgical year is the annual cycle of the mysteries of Christianity. It begins with the season of Advent and closes with the thirty-fourth week of Ordinary Time.


505. What is the sanctoral cycle?

This is the annual cycle of feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the martyrs, and saints whom the Church commemorates. They are proposed to the faithful as examples for our imitation, whom we are to ask to intercede for us through Christ our Lord.


506. What is the Liturgy of the Hours?

Also called the Divine Office, it is a group of psalms, hymns, prayers, and biblical and spiritual readings formulated by the Church for chant or recitation at stated times every day.


507. How is the Liturgy of the Hours an extension of the Eucharistic celebration?

Through adoration and worship before the Blessed Sacrament, the Liturgy of the Hours complements the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


508. What is a Catholic church?

It is a house of prayer suited for private devotion and liturgy, where the faithful gather for the Sacrifice of the Mass and where the Eucharist is reserved for adoration.


509. What are the principal furnishings of a Catholic church?

They are:
    • the altar, where the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered;
    • the tabernacle, situated in a most dignified place for adoration and prayer before the Real Presence;
    • the sacred chrism, in the sanctuary, for the holy oils of catechumens and the sick;
    • the chair of the bishop (or priest), to express his office of presiding over the assembly;
    • the lectern, for reading the Scriptures, homily and announcements;
    • the baptistry and holy water fonts
    • the confessional, for hearing confessions and giving absolution.


Article 2: Liturgical Diversity and Unity of the Mystery

510. What have always been the two main features of the Church’s liturgy?

Since apostolic times, the Church’s liturgy has been one and the same paschal mystery, celebrated in a variety of forms.


511. Why have there been so many different liturgical traditions?

The basic reason is that there are varied cultures in the world. The Church is ready to adapt the liturgy to reflect this cultural variety, but always on one condition: that essential unity is maintained by fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition, by professing the same faith, receiving the same sacraments deriving from apostolic succession, and obedience to the Roman Pontiff.


512. Can liturgical diversity be a source of tension?

Yes. Always to be kept in mind is that adaptation to different cultures must never endanger unity of faith, or sacramental validity, or submission to hierarchical authority. Moreover, adapting the liturgy to the people’s culture requires conversion of their heart and, if need be, surrender of their ancient practices that are incompatible with the Catholic faith.


Section II: The Seven Sacraments of the Church

As we begin our reflection on each of the seven sacraments, it should be noted that they can be classified into three categories:
    • The three sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist—lay the foundations of our life as Christians.

    • The two sacraments of healing—Penance and the Anointing of the Sick—provide for the restoration to supernatural life and health.

    • The two sacraments of Orders and Matrimony are for the service of the communion and mission of the faithful.


Chapter One: The Sacraments of Christian Initiation

The name “Sacraments of Initiation” has been given to Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist because they correspond to the foundations of our natural life. We must first be born in the supernatural life through Baptism, strengthened in this life by Confirmation, and nourished in the life of God by the Holy Eucharist.


Article 1: Baptism

513. What is the Sacrament of Baptism?

It is the foundation of the whole Christian life, the gate to our life in the Spirit, and the door to the other sacraments. “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word,” as declared by the ecumenical Council of Florence (1438-1445 A.D.).


514. What are some of the names for Baptism?

It is called Baptism from the Greek baptizein, which means “to immerse.” The one baptized is plunged into water to symbolize being buried into Christ’s death and then rising up as a new creature. It is also called the washing of rebirth, renewal by the Holy Spirit, and enlightenment.


515. What are some pre-Christian figures of Baptism?

    • water, as the source of life and fruitfulness;
    • Noah’s Ark, in which eight persons were saved from the deluge;
    • water of the sea, as an emblem of death, signifying Christ’s death on the Cross;
    • the Red Sea, which the Israelites crossed miraculously in escaping from the Egyptians;
    • the Jordan River, which the People of God crossed to enter the Promised Land.


516. What is the meaning of Christ’s baptism?

Christ allowed Himself to be baptized in order to teach us:
    • the primacy of Baptism, since He began His ministry by being baptized and ended it by commissioning His disciples to baptize others;
    • the necessity of “self-emptying,” since Christ submitted Himself to being baptized as though He were a sinner;
    • we were redeemed by the Cross of Christ, since the efficacy of Baptism comes from Christ’s death on Calvary.


517. What is the history of Baptism in the Church?

From the day of Pentecost to the present, Baptism has been the door of the Church. It is through Baptism that a person is purified, justified, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.


518. What is the preparation for Baptism?

In the early Church, this preparation involved several stages to ensure adequate understanding of the faith. Over the centuries, we have distinguished the preparation of adult converts from the training of children who are baptized in infancy.
Today the Church provides a formal catechumenate, called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Also in mission countries, the Church allows the use of such initiation elements as are compatible with the Catholic faith.
One major difference between Eastern and Western rites is that Easter Churches confer all three Sacraments of Initiation in infancy. In the Roman rite, there are years of preparation of children before receiving First Confession and Communion as well as Confirmation.


519. What are the principal aspects of the liturgy for Baptism?

    • The sign of the Cross on the candidate symbolizes the grace of redemption through Christ’s crucifixion.

    • Announcing of God’s word typifies the faith necessary for Baptism.

    • Anointing with the oil of catechumens, or laying on of hands, declares the renouncing of Satan and readiness to profess the true faith. By the blessing of the Baptismal water, the one to be baptized is to be “born of water and the Spirit.”

    • Actual Baptism with immersion or pouring of water follows two different rites:

      • In the Latin Church: “[Name], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

      • In the Eastern liturgies: “The servant of God, [name], is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    • Anointing with chrism declares that the baptized person has been christened to share in Christ’s triple anointing as Priest, Prophet, and King.

    • In the liturgies of the East, the anointing is the Sacrament of Confirmation.

    • The white garment symbolizes that the newly baptized has been clothed in the vesture of Christ, that is, risen with Christ to supernatural life.

    • In the Eastern Churches, Holy Communion is given to the baptized, even infants, recalling Christ’s words, “Let the little children come to me.” In the Latin rite, the baptized person is brought to the altar for the Pater Noster, which precedes Communion at Mass.

    • There is a solemn blessing of the one baptized. In the case of infants, the mother also receives a special blessing.


520. Who can receive Baptism?

Every nonbaptized person, whether adult of child:
    • In places recently evangelized, the normal procedure is to have adults go through the catechumenate. This is an extensive formation in the Catholic faith.

    • Children are baptized, even in infancy, on the premise that Baptism removes the stain of original sin. Infant Baptism was certainly practiced since the second century and most probably already in apostolic times.


521.How important is faith for Baptism?

It is indispensable. Either the one to be baptized or, in the case of infants, the parents and sponsors must believe. No doubt the faith in the one receiving Baptism has to be developed. This is a grave responsibility for the parents and sponsors, to provide the necessary instruction and nurture of the virtue of faith received at Baptism.


522. Who can baptize?

Bishops and priests and, in the Latin rite, also deacons. But in case of necessity, anyone can baptize who has the intention to do what the Church does, and uses the Trinitarian formula and water.


523. How necessary is Baptism?

Absolutely necessary for salvation, since the Church does not recognize any other sure way of being saved.
At the same time, the Church teaches that those who suffer for the faith, and catechumens are saved even without Baptism of water.
Moreover, the Church believes that since God wants everyone to be saved, there is such a thing as Baptism of desire. We may hold that those will reach heaven who want to do God’s will and who would have been baptized had they known of its necessity.
Finally, the Church cannot but trust in God’s mercy that He will bring to heaven the children who die without Baptism. Yet, she does not cease insisting on the urgency of Baptism for children.


524. What graces are received in Baptism?

The two basic graces are remission of sin and the new birth in the Spirit.
    • The purification from sin means the remission of all the guilt, or estrangement from God, and all the penalty, or suffering due to sin. The inclination to sin, or concupiscence, remains but grace is received to overcome this sinful inclination and be crowned with victory over the struggle.

    • The new birth in the Spirit means becoming a new creature, being incorporated into the Church, acquiring an sacramental bond of Christian unity, and receiving an indelible spiritual mark.


525. Explain in more detail this new birth in the Spirit.

    • As a new creation, baptized persons receive sanctifying grace, the theological and moral virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    • Incorporation into the Church makes them members of the Church, gives them the rights of a Christian, including the right to receive the other sacraments, and places on them corresponding responsibilities, especially the duty to profess and share their faith in the Church’s missionary apostolate.

    • The sacramental bond includes all the baptized, even those who are not professed Catholics. They acquire a certain, albeit imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.

    • The indelible mark (character) means that no one can be rebaptized. There is an irradicable seal that binds those who receive Baptism and gives them a special title to God’s grace and a special accountability for assimilation to Christ in living a holy life.


Article 2: Confirmation

Confirmation binds the baptized more perfectly to the Church, endows them with special strength from the Holy Spirit, and thus obliges them more strictly to be true witnesses of Christ to spread and defend the Catholic faith by their words and actions.


526. What is the role of Confirmation in the economy of salvation?

In the Old Testament, the coming of the Messiah was foretold, as was a special coming of the Spirit of the Lord. However, as Christ made clear, this Spirit was to be shared by those upon whom the Apostles laid their hands. In the early Church, there were two titles by which this sacrament was named: it was chrismation (or anointing with chrism) in the East, and confirmation (or ratification and strengthening) in the West.


527. How do the Eastern and Western traditions differ?

In the Eastern tradition, the stress has been on the unity of Christian initiation, hence the conferral of all three sacraments—Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist—at the same time.
In the Western or Roman tradition, the increase in infant baptisms occasioned the separation of Confirmation from Baptism. However, when adults are baptized, they are commonly confirmed by the bishop or priest who has just baptized them.


528. What is the ritual of Confirmation?

    • Anointing with the oil of chrism symbolizes cleansing and making flexible, healing and soothing, beautifying and strengthening. The anointing imparts a spiritual seal that marks the confirmed person as totally committed to Christ, enrolled in His service, and assured of His special grace of protection and care.

    • When separated from Baptism, the rite of Confirmation includes the renewal of the promises of faith and the profession of faith. Also, when adults are confirmed, they assist at Mass and receive the Eucharist after Confirmation.

    • Also in the Roman rite, the bishop extends his hands over the persons being confirmed. In doing this, he says the following prayer; “All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin, and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of Knowledge and filial affection; fill them with the spirit of the fear of God. Through Christ our Lord.”

    • The essential rite for Confirmation differs between the East and West. In the Latin ritual, it consists of anointing with chrism on the forehead with the hand and pronouncing the words: “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In the Eastern Churches, after a prayer of Epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit), the body’s important parts are anointed. Each anointing is accompanied by the words: “The seal of the gift that is the Holy Spirit.”

    • After Confirmation a sign of peace is exchanged with the bishop and with all the faithful.


529. What are the effects of Confirmation?

The basic effect is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, similar to what the Apostles received on Pentecost. Specifically, the Holy Spirit:
    • deepens our sense of adoption by God;
    • joins us more firmly to Christ;
    • increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
    • makes our union with the Church more perfect;
    • enables us to spread and defend our faith as witnesses of Christ and never to be ashamed of the Cross.


530. Can Confirmation be received more than once?

No, it imprints a permanent character on our souls. We are able to testify to our faith in Christ because we are, in his own words, clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).


531. Who can receive the Sacrament of Confirmation?

Everyone who is baptized should be confirmed. In the Latin rite, the person should have reached the age of discretion. But in danger of death, even infants should be confirmed.


532. What is the preparation for Confirmation?

There should be adequate instruction in the faith and the responsibilities of belonging to the Church of Christ. Those to be confirmed are to be in the state of grace. Also, there should be a sponsor, preferably the same as for Baptism, to show the unity of the two sacraments.


533. Who is the minister of Confirmation?

The originating minister is the bishop. In the Eastern Churches, the bishop or priest who baptizes also confirms. But the chrism used in both East and West must have been consecrated by the bishop (or patriarch).
In the Latin rite, the ordinary minister of Confirmation is the bishop, although for serious reasons he may delegate a priest. Any priest should confirm even the youngest children who are in danger of death.


Article 3: The Eucharist

The Holy Eucharist completes the Christian initiation. As described by the Second Vatican Council, “At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, the Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again. So He entrusted to His beloved Spouse, the Church, the memorial of His death and Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, the paschal banquet in which Christ is received in nourishment, the soul is filled by grace, and the pledge of future glory is given to us” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 47).


534.How is the Eucharist the source and summit of the Church’s life?

Where the other sacraments give the grace they signify, the Eucharist contains the Church’s spiritual treasury, who is Christ Himself. That is why the other sacraments are directed to the Eucharist and the Eucharistic celebration is already the heavenly liturgy by anticipating eternal life.


535. What are some of the names by which the Eucharist is called?

Each of the following names expresses a different aspect of this treasure of faith. It is called:
    • the Eucharist, as our highest act of thanksgiving to God;

    • the Lord’s Supper, because it reenacts what the Savior did on the night before His Passion;

    • the Breaking of the Bread, by which is indicated our communion with Christ and one another;

    • the Christian Assembly (synaxis), as a visible expression of the Church;

    • the Memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection;

    • the Holy Sacrifice, or Sacrifice of the Mass, Sacrifice of Praise, Spiritual and Holy Sacrifice—which all proclaim synonymously the presence of the sacrifice of Christ and the Church;

    • Communion, because the Eucharist unites us in one body by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ;

    • Holy Mass, because the Eucharistic Liturgy closes with the sending (missio) of the faithful to fulfill the will of God in their daily lives.


536. What is the significance of the bread and wine in the Eucharist?

Bread and wine become Christ’s Body and Blood. Even so, bread and wine express the goodness of creation. They also witness the fulfillment of the Priest Melchizedek’s offering in the Old Law.
The bread commemorates the Passover of the Israelites; the manna in the desert; and the pledge of God’s fidelity to feed His people.
The cup of blessing symbolizes the New Jerusalem at the end of time.


537. When did Christ promise the Eucharist?

After He worked the miracle of multiplying the loaves to feed the multitude. His promise to give His own flesh to eat and blood to drink divided the disciples. But instead of retracting the promise, He asked the Apostles if they, too, wished to go away.


538. When did Christ institute the Holy Eucharist?

At the Last Supper, as narrated in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in the letters of St. Paul. Jesus chose the Passover to institute the Eucharist, saying to His disciples, “This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And again, after supper, “This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood, that will be poured out for you” (Lk 22: 19-20).
By this action, Christ gave the Passover its ultimate meaning and anticipated the final Passover of the Church in the glory of His kingdom.


539. What is the significance of Christ’s words, “Do this in memory of me”?

By giving this command to the Apostles, Christ gave them the power to do what He had done, and of communicating this power to their successors, the bishops, until the end of time. Thus was ensured the preservation of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. Thus, too, was preserved the celebration of Mass every day, especially on Sunday. Thus, finally, the Eucharist became the center of the Church for the obvious reason that the Eucharist is Christ.


540. What is one of the earliest records of the Mass in the Catholic Church?

It occurs in the letter of St. Justin, written about 155 A.D., in which he describes the full sequence of the Eucharistic celebration. There is even provision for deacons bringing Holy Communion to the faithful who could not attend the Mass. What stands out in this historic document is that there were and are, two fundamental parts to every Mass: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


541. Explain the sequence of the Eucharistic celebration.

    • The gathering of the faithful for Mass is the precondition for having a Eucharistic assembly.

    • The Liturgy of the Word draws on the Old and New Testaments, and includes petitions for all the people.

    • The Offertory makes clear that the Holy Eucharist is first of all a sacrifice. Along with the bread and wine, from earliest times, the faithful brought their own gifts to the altar.

    • The Eucharistic Prayer is both a prayer of thanksgiving and consecration. By the Words of Institution, bread and wine are separately consecrated to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus, the sacrifice He offered once for all on Calvary is reenacted on the altar.

    • The intercessions that follow show that the Eucharist is offered everywhere throughout the world.

    • In Communion, the faithful are nourished on the living Christ. But they must be truly faithful, who believe in the Savior and are in communion with the pope and pastors of the Church.


542. How is the Eucharist a sacramental sacrifice?

The Eucharist is the sacramental sacrifice in which the Church offers to God the Father what He himself has created. She gives Him the bread and wine, which by His power become the living Jesus Christ.


543. How is the Eucharist a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving?

It is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father as an act of gratitude for the blessings of His creation, redemption, and sanctification. It is a sacrifice of praise by which the Church glorifies the Father through Christ, with Christ, as an acceptable sacrifice in Christ.


544. How is the Eucharist the sacrificial memorial of Christ?

The Eucharist is a memorial (Greek anamnesis) as both the recollection of past events and the proclamation of the marvels that God has done for men. These events become present and actual. Christ is now carrying out His Sacrifice of the Cross.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice because Christ is now offering the same Body and Blood that He offered on Calvary. What He does now is make Himself present in order to apply the fruits of Calvary by communicating to us the graces He merited on the Cross.
The Mass and Calvary are one sacrifice. It is the same Victim who offered Himself the, in a bloody manner, who now offers Himself in an unbloody manner through the ministry of priests.


545. How is the Eucharist the sacrificial memorial of the Church?

In the Eucharist, the Church offers herself with Christ by giving to the Father all the praise, suffering, prayer, and labor of her members.
In the Eucharist, the Church is united as one Body in communion with the Bishop of Rome and the bishop of the place where Mass is offered. She intercedes for all the priestly ministers who offer their Masses for and in union with the Church.
In the Eucharist, the Church’s offering is united with those in heavenly glory. She is with Mary at the foot of the Cross, joined in Christ’s offering and intercession. The Eucharist is finally offered for the faithful departed, that they may enter into the light and peace of Christ.
In the words of St. Augustine, “The Church does not cease to reproduce [this sacrifice] in the sacrament of the altar, so well-known to the faithful, where it is shown that in what she is offering she herself is being offered” (The City of God, 10:6).


546. How is Christ present in the Eucharist?

Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is unique. In the Eucharist, the Body and Blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained.


547. How does the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ?

In the language of the Council of Trent, “By the consecration of the bread and wine, there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His Blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation” (October 11, 1551).


548. Is the whole Christ present in each of the species or physical properties of bread and wine?

Yes, He is wholly present in each species and in every particle. Thus the breaking of the host does not divide Christ.


549. How are we to worship the Eucharist?

During Mass, we are to express our faith in the Real Presence of Christ by genuflecting or profoundly bowing as a sign of our adoration of the Lord. After celebration of Mass, the consecrated hosts are to be preserved with the greatest reverence for veneration by the faithful and for carrying in procession.


550. What is the role of the tabernacle in the veneration of the Eucharist?

Originally used to reserve the Eucharist for the sick and imprisoned, the tabernacle is now an integral part of a Catholic church. Here the Eucharistic Lord is reserved for silent adoration and prayer.


551.Why is Our Lord with us in the Eucharist, also outside the Sacrifice of the Mass?

He remains in the Eucharist to provide us the same privilege enjoyed by His contemporaries in Palestine: to express our love for Him and receive the blessings of His love in return.


552. What does the altar signify?

It signifies both the Eucharistic sacrifice and communion. In fact, it symbolizes Christ Himself, who now offers Himself for our sins and invites us to receive Him at His holy table.


553. How should we prepare for Holy Communion?

We are to make sure there is no grave sin on our souls. The prescribed fast should be observed. Our bodily deportment, including our clothes, should reflect our interior dispositions.


554. How often should Holy Communion be received?

Assuming the necessary dispositions, Communion should be received at the very least once a year, especially during the Easter season. However, Communion is recommended at every Mass attended, even every day.


555. Should Communion be received under both forms?

In the Eastern Churches, this is the established custom. In the Latin rite, the chalice may also be given according to the norm of the Church’s liturgical laws, or even the chalice alone in case of necessity.


556. What are the effects of Holy Communion?

The most fundamental effect is the deepening of our union with Christ. From this follow many other spiritual benefits. It also:
    • increases and renews our supernatural life;
    • cleanses the soul of venial sins, as to both guilt and penalty;
    • strengthens our soul to resist sin in the future;
    • deepens our love for God and others;
    • joins us more intimately with the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ;
    • directs our concern for the physically and spiritually poor;
    • impels us to Christian unity to pray and work for the day when all Christians will believe in and receive the living Christ in Holy Communion.


557. When may Communion be received by Christians who are not Catholic?

They may be given Holy Communion under the following conditions:
    • when in the bishop’s judgment, there is a grave necessity;
    • when the people ask for communion of their own free will;
    • when they profess the Catholic faith in the Holy Eucharist;
    • when they are properly disposed.


558. How is the Eucharist the pledge of future glory?

It is the pledge of future glory on the promise of Christ. Why? Because the graces communicated by Christ in the Eucharist assure us of reaching heavenly glory. Even on earth we have a foretaste of heaven in the measure that we avail ourselves of the light and strength that the Eucharistic Christ confers on those who believe in Him.


Chapter Two: The Sacraments of Healing

Jesus Christ came into the world to heal the sick and restore to life those who were spiritually dead. He therefore instituted the two sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. Their purpose is to continue His mission of restoring to health, and back to life, those who have been even mortally wounded by sin.


Article 4: Penance and Reconciliation

559. What are the names by which the first sacrament of healing is called?

    • It is the Sacrament of Conversion because it restores sinners to friendship with God.
    • It is the Sacrament of Penance because it consecrates the three steps required by the Church, namely, conversion, penance, and satisfaction.
    • It is the Sacrament of Confession because auricular, spoken and heard, telling of one’s sins to a priest is essential for this sacrament.
    • It is the Sacrament of Pardon because the sacramental absolution by a priest gives pardon (forgiveness) and peace to the penitent.
    • It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation because it restores God’s merciful love to the penitent.


560. Why did Christ institute the Sacrament of Penance?

Because He knew that, although baptized, His followers would fall into sin. They would have to struggle for conversion if they were to become holy and reach eternal life.


561. What are the two conversions of Christ’s followers?

In the words of St. Ambrose, there are two conversions: “There is water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of Penance.”


562. What is interior penance?

Interior penance is a radical reorientation of one’s whole life. It is a return to God in the depths of one’s heart; firm resolve to amend one’s life, with trust in His mercy and sorrow for having offended Him.


563. What are some forms of penance in the Christian life?

    • The Bible and the Church Fathers identify the three basic forms of penance as fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
    • Regular examination of conscience, spiritual direction, and suffering opposition to the true faith are recognized penitential practices.
    • The daily carrying of the cross in union with our Lord is the most assured kind of penance.
    • Reception of the Eucharist is a most effective way of expiating sin and preserving oneself from the contagion of sin.
    • Scripture reading, the Divine Office, and all the forms of Catholic worship deepen our spirit of conversion.
    • The Church’s seasons (such as Lent), days of penance (such as Fridays), pilgrimages, and voluntary sacrifices are all recognized ways of making reparation.


564. Who alone forgives sin?

Only God forgives sins. Christ forgives sins because He is God. He instituted the Church to forgive sins in His name through the Apostles and their successors in the priestly ministry.


565. What is reconciliation with the Church?

This is the restoration of communion with the Body of the faithful. Sin alienates, forgiveness reunites. Thus, reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.


566. How is the Sacrament of Penance the second plank of salvation?

It is God’s way of providing forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism.


567. Has there been a development of discipline in the Sacrament of Penance?

Yes, mainly in a lessening of the rigor and publicity, and an increase in the frequency, along with confessing just venial sins.


568. What are the unchangeable elements in the practice of this sacrament?

They are mainly two: on the part of the penitent, sorrow, confession, and satisfaction; on God’s part, the absolution through the Church by her bishops and priests.


569. What is the formula of absolution in the Latin rite?

It is: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sin. Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”


570. What is contrition?

Contrition is sorrow of soul over one’s sins, the detesting of sins committed, and the resolution not to sin in the future. This is the first duty of a penitent.


571. What is perfect contrition?

It is sorrow for sin mainly motivated by the love of God, which removes the guilt of venial sins. If joined with the intention to receive the Sacrament of Penance, mortal sins are also remitted.


572. What is imperfect contrition?

It is sorrow for sin motivated by fear of eternal punishment or of other sufferings due to sin. By itself, imperfect contrition does not obtain pardon for mortal sins, although it disposes a person to obtain this pardon in the Sacrament of Penance.


573. What is an examination of conscience?

It is a prayerful reflection on the sins we have committed since our last confession. This examination should be made in the light of God’s revealed Word, for example the Sermon on the Mount.


574. What sins must be confessed?

All mortal sins of which a person is aware after making a serious examination of conscience.


575. Is the confession of sins necessary?

Yes, by Christ’s command, the confession of sins is essential to the Sacrament of Penance.


576. What sins may be confessed?

The Church encourages the confession of our daily faults or venial sins. Regular confession of such sins sensitizes our conscience, helps us to overcome temptations, heals our souls, and enables us to grow in the spiritual life.


577. How do we make satisfaction for our sins?

We do so by returning what was stolen, restoring the reputation of persons we have injured, and making compensation for injuries. Sacramental absolution does not remove all the penalties due to forgiven sins.


578. What is the penance imposed by the confessor?

It is part of the required satisfaction and should correspond to the gravity of the sins confessed.


579. Who has the power to absolve sins?

Only bishops, as successors of the Apostles, and priests (presbyters) who have received this power in the Sacrament of Orders.


580. Must priests have faculties to exercise their power of absolution?

Yes, they must receive these faculties from their bishop, religious superior, or the pope, according to the law of the Church. According to Canon Law, “Those who enjoy the faculty of hearing confessions habitually…can exercise the same faculty everywhere unless the local ordinary denies it in a particular case” (Canon 967, no.2).


581. What is excommunication?

It is the penalty imposed by the Church for certain grave sins. Its effect is to forbid the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts. It is removed only by the pope, the bishop, or priests authorized by them.


582. What is the responsibility of priests?

As ministers of this sacrament, priests should be faithful to the Church’s teaching, direct the penitents to moral healing and spiritual maturity, pray and do penance for their penitents, encourage the faithful to confess their sins, and make themselves available to hear the confessions of the faithful.


583. What is the seal of confession?

It is the absolute prohibition against the priest revealing anything that he learns in confession. He remains “sealed” by the sacrament, and there is no exception to this secrecy.


584. What are the effects of the Sacrament of Penance?

The Sacrament of Penance reconciles the sinner with God, bringing peace of conscience, spiritual consolation, and a restoration of the graces belonging to the children of God. Moreover, this sacrament reconciles a person with the Church by restoring communion with all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body and regaining the exchange of their spiritual goods.


585. How does the Sacrament of Penance anticipate our judgment at death?

By our conversion and absolution from mortal sin, we remove the one obstacle that would prevent us from entering heaven.


586. How are indulgences related to the Sacrament of Penance?

An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment still due to forgiven sins. Plenary indulgences remove all of this punishment, and partial indulgences remove some of this punishment. Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.


587. What are the two consequences of sin?

They are losing divine grace and incurring a debt of punishment. Mortal sin deprives a person of sanctifying grace and incurs the debt of eternal punishment. Venial sin deprives us of some of God’s grace and requires temporal punishment. These two consequences follow on the very nature of sin.


588. What are the consequences of forgiveness of sin?

They are the restoration of sanctifying grace and the remission of eternal punishment when mortal sin is forgiven. The forgiveness of venial sin brings a greater or lesser restoration of lost grace and the remission of some of the temporal punishment.


589. What is the Communion of Saints?

The Communion of Saints is the bond of spiritual unity among all the faithful in heaven, on earth, and in purgatory. It is the interchange of prayers and spiritual goods; the sharing of graces and blessings; and the communication of holy thoughts and inspirations among the members of the Church Triumphant, Militant, and Suffering, which constitutes the Mystical Body of Christ.


590. How do we obtain God’s indulgence through the Church?

We obtain the divine indulgence of the temporal punishment from the Church’s treasury of Christ’s merits and those of His saints. As members of the Church, the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory profit from the indulgences we gain for them.


591. What is the liturgy of the Sacrament of Penance?

The main parts are confession of sins by the penitent and absolution with assigned penance by the priest. Secondary parts are a greeting and blessing by the priest, reading from Scripture, and exhortation before confession, followed by the priest’s blessing and dismissal after confession, along with the penitent’s prayer of thanks.


592. What is distinctive about the Byzantine form of absolution?

Several formulas of absolution are recognized; the mercy of God in biblical history is recalled; and the absolution is given in an exhortatory form, such as, “May God forgive you through me.”


593. What is the communal form of the Sacrament of Penance?

Individual confession by each penitent and individual absolution by the priest is inserted into a communal liturgy. This consists of Scripture readings, a homily, examination of conscience, and communal prayers.


594. When are general confession and absolution permissible?

In cases of grave emergency. A large gathering of the faithful is not a grave emergency. Moreover, the penitents must intend to confess their grave sins individually in due time in order for a general absolution to be valid.


595. How necessary are the complete confession and personal absolution of the individual?

They are the only ordinary means for the faithful to be reconciled with God after they have committed mortal sin.


Article 5: Anointing of the Sick

The Second Vatican Council identifies the power which Christ gave to His priests for their ministry to the sick and the dying.
By the sacred anointing of the sick, and the prayer of the priests, the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that He may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ (Constitution on the Church II, 11).
As painful as sickness can be, in God’s providence it can bring a person closer to God or even be the occasion for reconciling a sinner with God.


596. What was the focus on sickness in the Old Testament?

The focus was the mysterious relation between sickness and sin. Sin and pain are related as condition and consequence. Among the prophets, Isaiah foretold that in His own time, God would pardon every sin and heal every human pain.


597. How is Christ the divine Physician?

He is the divine Physician on both levels of human suffering.
    • He is the Physician of bodily illness and disease. During His public ministry, He miraculously healed multitudes of their illness of body. He did so out of love for those who were suffering and to witness to His power of healing souls estranged from God.

    • He is the Physician of spiritual sickness and even Restorer of supernatural life to persons who are in deadly sin.
By His Passion and death, Jesus Christ gave suffering a new meaning. His followers can unite their sufferings with His and thus enable them, through love, to become like Him and cooperate with Him in the redemption of the world.


598. Did Christ commission His disciples to heal the sick?

Yes, when He told them, “Cure the sick” (Mt. 10:8) and foretold that “in my name…they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall get well” (Mk 16:17-18).


599. Why did Christ confer the power to heal the sick?

In order to confirm His mission as the divine Healer of human bodies and souls.


600. How does Christ exercise His ministry of healing?

He exercises His ministry of healing:
    • through the Church’s care for the sick and her prayers of intercession;
    • through the special charism of healing that He gives certain people, as we read in the lives of the saints;
    • through the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist;
    • through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.


601. Did the apostolic Church recognize a distinct sacrament for the sick?

Yes, as attested by the Letter of St. James: “Is anyone sick among you? Let him bring in the presbyters (priests) of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sin, they shall be forgiven him” (Jas 5:14-15).


602. What has been the Church’s tradition on anointing?

In both the East and West, the Church has always practiced anointing of the sick with blessed oil. As the practice became more limited to those near death, it came to be called Extreme Unction.


603. What is the discipline of the church, established by Pope Paul VI?

The seriously sick person is anointed on the forehead and hands with blessed olive oil, or when necessary, with another blessed plant oil. The one who anoints says only once, “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Hoy Spirit. May the Lord, who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.”


604. Who receives the Sacrament of Anointing?

Baptized persons who are in danger of death from sickness or old age.


605. May this sacrament be repeated?

Yes, if there is a relapse in the sickness after anointing, or if the same illness becomes more serious. The sacrament may be repeated also before a serious operation, or if an elderly person becomes notably weakened.


606. Who can administer this sacrament?

Only priests (bishops and presbyters). Pastors should instruct the faithful on the benefits of the Sacrament of Anointing.


607. What is the liturgy of anointing?

If circumstances indicate, the anointing should be preceded by the Sacrament of Penance and followed by Holy Communion.


608. What are the effects of the Sacrament of Anointing?

The spiritual effects of this sacrament are:
    • the grace to accept the trials experienced by the sick person;
    • forgiveness of sins, including grave sins and eternal punishment, requiring only imperfect contrition even before a person has lapsed into unconsciousness;
    • the grace to unite oneself with the Passion of Christ;
    • the gift of sharing in the merits and of contributing to the holiness of the Church;
    • the supernatural strength needed to prepare for eternity.
The bodily effects are a curing of the sickness, if this is God’s will.


609. What is Viaticum?

Viaticum is the Holy Eucharist received as a preparation for the close of our earthly life and entrance into eternal life.


Chapter Three: The Sacraments in the Service of Communion

The first three sacraments—Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist—provide the foundation for the Christian life. Through them we are grounded in the life of Christ and given the mission to evangelize the world.
The last two sacraments—Holy Orders and Matrimony—are directed to the salvation and sanctification of others. Certainly those who receive these sacraments are sanctified. But their divinely instituted purpose is mainly apostolic, to reach out to other people. Those who are ordained are to nourish the Church with the Word and grace of God. Those who are married are to cooperate as husband and wife in the spiritual propagation of the human race.


Article 6: Holy Orders

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. Its purpose is to continue the work of the Apostles until the end of time.
There are three degrees of this sacrament, namely, the episcopacy, the presbyterate, and the diaconate.


610. Why is this called the Sacrament of “Orders”?

The reason is because in the first century of Christianity, the Latin word ordo, or order, meant an organized civil body of persons under authority. The church adopted this name to identify the religious body of persons established by Christ for the sanctification of the People of God. Also called consecration, the Sacrament of Holy Orders sets certain persons apart and empowers them to sanctify others. The laying on of hands by the bishop along with the prayer of consecration is the visible sign of sacramental ordination.


611. What was the priesthood of the Old Testament?

It was instituted to proclaim God’s Word and to restore communion with God through prescribed prayers and sacrifices.


612. Was the Old Testament priesthood able to bring about salvation?

No, this could be done only by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prefigured the ordained ministry of the new covenant, exercised through the Sacrament of Orders.


613. What is the Church’s prayer at the ordination of bishops?

In the Latin rite, the following prayer is recited:
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…by your gracious word you established the plan of your Church. From the beginning, you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation. You established rulers and priests and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you.


614. What is the Church’s prayer at the ordination of priests?

In the ordination of priests, the Church prays:
Lord, holy Father . . . , when you had appointed high priests to rule your people, you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity to be with them and help them in their task . . . you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men . . . and you shared among the sons of Aaron the fullness of their father’s power.


615. What is the Church’s prayer at the ordination of deacons?

In the ordination of deacons, the Church prays:
Almighty God . . . you make the Church, Christ’s Body, grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple . . . As ministers of your tabernacle, you chose the sons of Levi and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.


616. Is there only one priesthood of Christ?

Yes, Christ is the one Mediator between God and Man. His sacrifice on the Cross merited all the grace for the salvation of the human race. Through His ministerial priesthood, He communicates the grace that He merited on Calvary.


617. What are the two participations in the one priesthood of Christ?

They are the ministerial and common priesthood. They differ in essence and not only in degree.
    • The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood is received by bishops and priests through the Sacrament of Orders.
    • The common priesthood of the faithful is received at Baptism and deepened by Confirmation.


618. What is the essence of the ministerial priesthood?

It is the conferral of sacred powers, which Christ exercises through bishops and priests for the service of the Church.


619. Are bishops and priests mere delegates of the community?

No, they exercise their priestly powers for the Christian community and in union with the members of the Mystical Body of Christ.


620. What are the three grades of the Sacrament of Orders?

As previously explained, they are the episcopate, the presbyterate, and diaconate. The Church now uses the following terms:
    • The priesthood, which includes bishops and presbyters. In Latin, the generic word is sacerdos for both bishops and presbyters.

    • The diaconate, which identifies the first level of the sacrament of Orders but is not a participation in the priesthood or sacerdotal powers of bishops and presbyters.


621. What is the episcopate?

It is the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders, the high priesthood, the summit of the sacred ministry.


622. What office and powers are conferred by the episcopate?

The episcopate makes the bishop a member of the college of bishops as a successor of the Apostles. He is empowered to ordain bishops, presbyters, and deacons. He has authority over his own diocese and shares with his fellow bishops in responsibility for the whole Church.


623. What is the presbyterate?

This is the second level of the priesthood. In ordaining men to the presbyterate, bishops hand on a share in the priestly consecration and mission.


624. What is the principal power of the presbyterate?

It is to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass. Their whole priesthood is sustained by this one sacrifice, in which they unite the prayers of the faithful with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ their head.


625. How are priests collaborators with their bishops?

Priests cooperate with their bishops in serving the People of God. They may exercise their priestly ministry only by depending on the bishop and being in faithful communion with him.


626. What is the diaconate?

It is the third level of the Sacrament of Orders, by which the bishop ordains men to be of service to the Church in the ministry of Christian charity.


627. What are the main forms of service of deacons?

They are to assist bishops and priests in the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist; distribute Holy Communion; witness and bless marriages; proclaim and preach the Gospel; celebrate funerals and perform the various ministries of Christian charity.


628. What is the permanent diaconate?

It is the ordination to a lifetime commitment to serve the Church as a deacon. Always retained by the Churches of the East, it was restored in the Latin Church since the Second Vatican Council. Married men may serve as permanent deacons as a distinct and permanent rank in the hierarchy.


629. What is the ritual for the conferral of the Sacrament of Orders?

The essential rite is the bishop’s laying of hands on the head of the one being ordained and the recitation of the consecrating prayer proper to each order. Among other rites of ordination in the Latin Church are the presentation and election of the one to be ordained; the instruction by the bishop; examination of the candidate; litanies of the saints for bishops and priest; anointing with holy chrism; presentation of the Gospel ring, miter, and staff to the new bishop; presentation of paten and chalice to priests and the book of the Gospels to deacons.


630. Who can confer the Sacrament of Orders?

Only validly ordained bishops, as successors of the Apostles, can validly confer the three degrees of the Sacrament of Orders.


631. Who can receive the Sacrament of Orders?

Only baptized males can validly receive the Sacrament of Orders. Since Christ chose men to form the college of the Apostles, the Church considers herself bound to follow the choice made by Christ. Women, therefore, cannot be validly ordained.


632. Does any man have a right to be ordained?

No, because a man must be called to this sacrament by a special vocation from Christ. It is therefore a privilege, but only for those who have been thus called by the Master.


633. What is the duty to celibacy for the reception of sacred orders?

Deacons may be either celibate or married. In the Latin Church, priests are normally chose from the faithful who live and promise to live in celibacy. In the Eastern Churches, priestly celibacy is highly honored, but married men are also ordained to the priesthood. However, in both the Latin and Eastern Churches, bishops must be celibate.


634. What is the indelible character conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders?

It is the permanent share in Christ’s triple office of priest, prophet, and king. This character remains no matter how unfaithful a cleric may be. The unworthiness of a particular bishop, priest, or deacon does not prevent Christ from communicating divine grace through him.


635. What is the grace of the Holy Spirit proper to the Sacrament of Orders?

In general, it is assimilation to Christ as priest, teacher, and pastor. However, this grace differs according to each of the three degrees of ordination.
    • The bishop receives the power to govern the flock of Christ committed to his care. He is enabled to be a model to the faithful and care for his sheep, even to laying down his life for them. Also, the bishop alone can confer the Sacrament of Orders.

    • The presbyter or priest is empowered to offer the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, to reconcile sinners, and to prepare the people for their eternal destiny.

    • Deacons receive the grace to serve the people in the ministry of the liturgy, the word, and charity.


636. What have the saints said regarding the dignity and responsibility of the priesthood?

St. Gregory Nazianzen stressed the duty of priests to be holy if they are to sanctify others. St. John Vianney declared that the priest continues Christ’s redemption on earth. “If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die, not of fright but of love. The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”


Article 7: Matrimony

By its very nature, marriage was instituted by God as a lifelong covenant. Its purpose is the well-being of the spouses and the procreation and upbringing of their children. Christ elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. The official Latin title, as in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, is matrimonium, matrimony.

637. Who is the author of matrimony?

God Himself is the Author of matrimony. It was He who established conjugal life and love, and He who determined its structure, its laws, and the marital covenant.


638. Why did God institute matrimony?

He instituted matrimony as a covenant of love: the love of husband and wife are to be an image of God’s love for the human race. Their fruitfulness in begetting children is an expression of God’s creative love in propagating the human family.


639. Why do we speak of matrimony under the sway of sin?

We speak this way to recognize the natural tendency to discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts between husband and wife. These struggles are the result of sin. They can be healed only by the grace of God.


640. What do we mean by matrimony under the pedagogy of the law?

By this we mean the marital norms and directives that God gave to the Chosen People in the Old Law. Without yet rejecting the polygamy of the patriarchs and kings, God elevated marriage far beyond what it was among the pagans. The unity and indissolubility of marriage began to be recognized. To this day, the Song of Songs is a unique revelation of human love as a reflection of God’s selfless love that is a strong as death.


641. What do we mean by “matrimony in the Lord”?

By this we mean the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Christian marriage is a symbol of Christ’s unfailing love of His Spouse, the Church. The Savior restored marriage to its original state before the fall of our first parents. It is now to be an indissoluble, lifelong union of one man and one woman until death. The followers of Christ are given the grace to deny themselves, take up their cross, and remain faithful to each other out of love for the Savior and with the assurance of His supernatural light and strength.


642. How is Baptism a nuptial mystery?

It is a nuptial mystery because it entitles baptized persons to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. Their marriage both signifies and confers the graces they need for life, as a sign of the covenant between Christ and His Church.


643. What is consecrated virginity?

Consecrated virginity is the lifetime sacrifice of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.


644. Why is consecrated virginity pleasing to God?

It is pleasing to God because it is the answer to Christ’s invitation to some men and women to follow His example. They renounce the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.


645. How are the Sacrament of Matrimony and consecrated virginity related?

They both come from the Lord. Moreover, consecrated virginity and matrimony reinforce and support each other.


646. Why is the Sacrament of Matrimony celebrated at Mass?

In this way, the spouses seal their mutual covenant by offering their married lives in union with Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for His Church. Moreover, the married spouses receive special graces from the Savior, who becomes present in the Mass, and whom they receive in Holy Communion.


647. What are the conditions for receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony?

To receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, a man and woman must both be baptized. They must be free to marry and to express their mutual consent. This means they are under no constraint, nor impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law. The exchange of consent brings their marriage into being. Natural intercourse after marriage consummates their union and makes it indissoluble.


648. Can the Church declare the nullity of a marriage?

Yes, provided sufficient grounds exist, the competent Church authority can declare that a marriage never existed.


649. What is the role of the bishop, priest, or deacon who assists at a sacramental marriage?

He receives the consent of the marrying partners in the name of the Church and imparts the Church’s blessing. However, it is the man and woman marrying who confer the sacrament on each other by their mutual exchange of vows.


650. What is the canonical form of matrimony?

This is the set of norms that the Church requires for the validity and liceity of a marriage in which at least one party is a professed Catholic. Behind this form is the Church’s understanding that matrimony is a liturgical action that creates certain rights and responsibilities, and requires the certification of witnesses. The public character of their mutual consent protects their agreement and ensures its permanent fidelity.


651. How important is preparation before marriage?

It is most important in order to ensure that the marriage is entered into freely and responsibly. Parents and families have the primary duty to provide this preparation by their example and teaching. Pastors and the Christian community are especially to help when the marrying people come from broken homes. What young people need is to develop the virtue of chastity in order to make the transition through an honorable engagement at a suitable age.


652. What is the Church’s law on mixed marriages?

A mixed marriage is a marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic. A dispensation is necessary from ecclesiastical authority for the liceity of a mixed marriage. Such dispensations assume that the Catholic partner will be free to practice his or her faith, that all the children will be raised Catholic, and that both parties do not exclude the divinely revealed purposes and properties of a valid marriage.


653. What is disparity of cult?

A disparity-of-cult marriage is a marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person. Dispensation in this case is necessary for the validity of the marriage. The same conditions apply here as in a mixed marriage. In disparity-of-cult marriages, neither partner receives the Sacrament of Matrimony. However, as St. Paul explains, “The unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband” (1 Cor 7:14). The Church’s great wish is that the holiness of the Catholic spouse will lead to the conversion of the other spouse to the Catholic faith.


654. What are the effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony?

There are mainly two effects:
    • The matrimonial bond established by God Himself. Consummated sacramental marriage is indissoluble by any human authority. The Church herself cannot pronounce against this disposition of divine wisdom.

    • The married partners are assured a lifetime of God’s grace, by which their marital love is perfected and their indissoluble unity is strengthened. Christ Himself becomes the source of this grace.


655. What does marital love require of the spouses?

It requires an inviolable fidelity between the spouses and binds them to an indissoluble unity.


656. Is this fidelity naturally impossible?

Yes, but this is precisely why Christ instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony. This sacrament enables the married spouses to do the humanly impossible. They are thus empowered to witness to God’s selfless love for the human race.

(1647 -1648)

657. What is the Church’s position on divorce and remarriage?

The Church is sympathetic toward those of the faithful whose marriage is in trouble. They may even be separated “from bed and board.” But the Church remains firm in obedience to the teaching of Christ. A valid, sacramental, consummated marriage cannot be dissolved, with the right to remarry, by any authority on earth. Catholics who are thus married and yet are cohabiting with someone who is not their spouse may not receive the Holy Eucharist. They should, however, pray and assist at Mass in order to be reconciled with God. They cannot be absolved in the Sacrament of Penance until they give up their sinful cohabitation. Nevertheless, they remain members of the Church and benefit from their membership in the Mystical Body of Christ.


658. What is the fruitfulness of conjugal love?

According to the will of god, conjugal love is ordained to the procreation and education of children. Moreover, the fruits of this procreative marital love extend beyond the powers of human nature. As the first principal teachers, parents become channels of divine grace for the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life of their offspring.


659. What is the domestic Church?

The domestic Church is the Christian family in which parents and children exercise their priesthood of the baptized. They worship God, receive the sacraments, and witness to Christ and His Church by their lives of holiness, self-denial, and active charity.


660. How necessary is the domestic Church in our day?

Indispensably necessary in today’s world, which is alien and even hostile to Christ and His teaching. In the first centuries of the Christian era, believing families were the catalyst by which the Church became established in the Roman Empire.


661. What is the first school of the Christian life?

It is the believing Christian home. Here the family learns endurance and the joy of work, generous love and forgiveness, the practice of prayer, and the meaning of sacrifice as a lifetime surrender of oneself to the will of God.


662. Is anyone without a family in this world?

No, childless couples and those without a natural family, through poverty or for other reasons, all belong to the great family which is the Church. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “The Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor and are heavily burdened’” (Familiaris Consortium, 85).


Chapter Four: Other Celebrations of the Liturgy

Article 1: Sacramentals

The Church’s liturgy is primarily the sacraments, which directly confer the grace they signify. Besides the sacraments, however, there are also sacramentals. Both should be seen together, because both are sources of divine grace. But sacramentals were not immediately instituted by Christ. They were, and are, instituted by the Church, which is guided by her Founder, Jesus Christ.

663. What are sacramentals?

Sacramentals are sensibly perceptible prayers, and often actions or things, which resemble the sacraments and which signify spiritual effects obtained through the intercession of the Church.


664. How do sacramentals differ from the sacraments?

They differ from the sacraments in not being instrumental causes of grace. Rather, they arouse the faith of believers to better dispose themselves for the reception of grace from the sacraments.

665. What is characteristic of all the sacramentals?

They always include a prayer and normally an object or action that signifies some profession of faith, such as the Sign of the Cross recalling Christ’s crucifixion, or holy water recalling our baptismal incorporation into the Church.


666. How do sacramentals arise from the priesthood of the baptized?

Baptism empowers every baptized person to bless and be blessed. However, the more intimately a blessing is related to the Church’s sacramental life, the more likely a blessing is reserved to the ordained bishops, priests, and deacons.


667. How do the sacramentals confer grace?

They confer grace indirectly, that is, by preparing us to recognize a source of grace and then to cooperate with the grace that the sacramental signifies. Consequently, we may say that almost every respectable object can be used to give praise to God and can be a source of grace to those who believe.


668. What are some of the main forms of sacramentals?

    • The primary sacramentals are the blessings of persons and places, objects and meals. These are normally given by invoking the name of Jesus and making the Sign of the Cross.
    • Some blessings are intended to have a lasting effect, such as the blessing of an abbot, a consecrated virgin, or an altar.
    • Finally, the Church authorizes the solemn exorcisms to drive the evil spirit out of persons possessed by the devil. Exorcisms may be performed only by priests and with the authorization of the bishop.


669. What do we mean by popular piety?

Popular piety is the vast arena of devotions and religious practices of the faithful that are not strictly liturgical or sacramental but yet are approved by the Church. This includes the veneration of relics, sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, Stations of the Cross, the rosary, and medals.
Such expression of piety do not replace the sacred liturgy. They are to support and harmonize with the liturgy, and are to be practiced with the Church’s approval. Properly exercised, these forms of piety serve to combine the divine and the human, Christ and Mary, spirit and body, person and community, faith and homeland, intelligence and emotion.


Article 2: Christian Funerals

All the sacraments have as their final purpose to bring the faithful to eternal life. In the Christian perspective, physical death is the gateway to life in the kingdom that Christ went to prepare for us. This is what we profess whenever we recite the Nicene Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”


670. What is the Christian understanding of bodily death?

It marks the end of our sacramental life of grace, and the beginning of our new life of glory. This presumes that we are in Christ Jesus. It may require purification of the soul in purgatory before we are finally clothed with the wedding garments of heaven.


671. What is the distinctive feature of the Church’s funeral services?

These ceremonies surrounding the Sacrifice of the Mass are sacramental, focusing on the Church’s hope that the body being buried is the seed that will one day be raised in resplendent glory.


672. Why does the Church conduct funerals for the deceased?

She does so to express her effective communion with the departed, to enable the faithful to share in that communion, and to proclaim her faith in eternal life.


673. What are the principal features of the Church’s funeral liturgy?

    • The Roman liturgy provides for three forms of burial service: at the home of the deceased (or funeral parlor), in the church, and at the cemetery.

    • There are four stages in the liturgy. Relatives and friends of the deceased are welcomed with the New Testament encouragement of hope in eternal life. The Liturgy of the Word illuminates the mystery of Christians in the light of the risen Christ.

    • The Eucharistic Sacrifice is the heart of the funeral ceremony, stressing the hope of the resurrection and the need of prayer for the deceased that God might “cleanse his child of sin.” In the closing farewell, the deceased is commended to God by the Church (Order of Christian Funerals, 57).


Copyright © 1999 Inter Mirifica

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