Sacraments

Visible sign of invisible grace

The simplest definition of Sacrament could be expressed with words: visible sign of invisible grace (gift) from God. To live our life with God we rely on His support. Through the celebration of Sacraments God enters our life with His grace touching all the important moments of Christian life.

Those who are interested in becoming Catholics should, in the first instance, make contact with their local Catholic parish community. Your parish priest is best instructed to listen to you and understand what God seems to be doing in your life.

If you wish, you can then be introduced to the basic steps in becoming a Catholic. Most parishes have a program for adults who are interested in becoming Catholics, called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

The journey toward becoming a Catholic is strengthened by Sacraments of Initiation.

In the Catholic Church we recognise seven sacraments which are divided into the sacraments of:

CHRISTIAN INITIATION
Baptism
Holy Eucharist
Confirmation
Healing
Penance
Anointing the Sick
COMMUNION and MISSION
Marriage
Holy Orders
Baptism

Baptism is the first of the Sacraments of Initiation. The meaning for Baptism is to make Christian followers children of God through the action of water and the Holy Spirit.

The majority of non-adult Baptisms are infants, but today, some parents are opting to have their children baptised at an older age. In both these cases, the parents undertake some preparation in their Parish.

Godparents are chosen as someone who will assist the parents in supporting the faith development of their children. Godparents must be baptised and confirmed Catholics over the age of 16. They must be formed to see themselves as members of the Church, and must therefore show willingness to live as a follower of Christ within a Christian community, and to share in the worship, prayer and mission and the life of the Parish.

To learn how you can present your child for baptism, please contact your local parish.

First Holy Communion

The Sacrament of Eucharist is the heart of our Christian faith. It brings together the Christian community, gives it identity and prepares the community for mission. This sacrament nourishes and strengthens us and makes us ‘Church and Body of Christ for the world.’

Children will be invited to prepare for their First Holy Communion at about eight years of age. It is the choice of the parents as to when they think their child is ready to receive the sacrament. For a child to be ready, they must be familiar with the religious rituals of the Church.

This means they must have some understanding as to why we celebrate the Eucharist, what it means to receive Holy Communion and why they have a desire to participate in this experience.

Preparation, readiness and understanding among children will vary. Canon Law states that “sufficient knowledge and preparation so as to understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity”.

In light of this (and in the spirit of the interpretation of Canon Law), children with an intellectual disability, who are supported by the faith of their families or the faith community, should not be arbitrarily denied the sacraments.

To learn how your child can prepare for first Eucharist please contact your local parish.

Confirmation

Confirmation completes initiation into the Catholic Church. This sacrament is usually administered to children at the age of about twelve, by the Bishop of the Diocese.

The Rite of Confirmation is twofold. The bishop and the concelebrating priests lay hands on the candidate and invokes the Holy Spirit. The anointing with Chrism and the words that accompany clearly express the effects of the giving of the Holy Spirit.

Signed with the perfumed oil of Chrism, the baptised person receives the indelible character, and is sealed with the Holy Spirit, which brings them more closely to Christ and gives them the grace to spread the good news of Jesus among people.

Penance

The Sacrament of Penance (also sometimes referred to as Confession or Reconciliation) is a sacrament of forgiveness, compassion and healing. Children will normally receive the Sacrament of Penance for the first time a little while before they receive their First Holy Communion.

This sacrament reaffirms that God loves us before we even recognise that we need to be forgiven. The love of God for us is expressed in mercy, compassion and forgiveness. The Sacrament now focuses more clearly on the relational nature and reminds us that as individuals and as community we stand in need of God’s forgiveness and healing love, in all our relationships, with ourselves, God and others.

We can identify areas where we are not living out our calling as members of the Christian community. We need to express our sorrow and call on the Holy Spirit for encouragement and support on our journey. The Sacrament of Penance restores our relationship with God, self and others.

To learn how you can receive reconciliation, please contact your local parish.

Anointing the Sick

This sacrament is specifically intended for the benefit of the sick. It was instituted by Christ and attested by St. James. (James 5:14-15).

Any member of the faithful can receive this sacrament, and it may be given, in a hospital or church, to several people at the same time. If the illness is long lasting (or worsens), the sacrament may be received more than once.

In this sacrament the priest prays with the sick person. He then anoints them on the forehead and hands with the Oil of the Sick and this is accompanies by the prayer of the priest who asks for the special grace of this sacrament. Following the anointing, the sick person, may also receive Holy Communion, known (when given to the dying) as “The Viaticum” to prepare them for the journey to eternal life. If people are in need of this Sacrament they should contact their local parish.

To learn how you or an ill person in your care can receive an anointing, please contact your local parish.

Marriage

When a man and a woman meet, fall in love and wish to spend their lives together, they make a promise to be faithful to each other for life. They confer on each other the Sacrament of Matrimony. And because it is the love of God and not just their own shared love, they make their promises publicly, in front of a priest or a deacon who represents the Church, and before two other witnesses.

They seal their covenant by the fact of their giving of themselves to each other – thus they become “one body and one soul”, so to find wholeness and happiness. So from their oneness new life can now arise: husband and wife become father and mother.

For information on the requirements of booking and preparing for a marriage please contact your local parish.

Marriage education can be recommended by Parish priests and is available through Centacare Catholic Country, see their Pre-Marriage Education Programs.

Holy Orders

This sacramental ministry in the Church consists of three ranks – the bishops, the priests, and the deacons – who all share in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ, and their ministry is grounded in him; they represent the Church.

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time.

The ordination of a Bishop is called Episcopal Ordination which confers the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It makes a bishop a legitimate successor of the apostles and integrates him into the episcopal college to share with the Pope and the other bishops care for all the churches. It confers on him the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling. When a bishop is entrusted the care of a particular church, he is the visible head and foundation of unity for that church, and as a Vicar of Christ, he fulfils the office of shepherd and is assisted by own priests and deacons.

When a priest is ordained he is anointed with the Spirit which seals the priest with an indelible, spiritual character that configures him to Christ the priest and enables him to act in the name of Christ the Head. The priest watches over and leads his community. He preaches and explains the Gospel, officiates at the Eucharist, celebrates and administers the sacraments. At his ordination, the bishop anoints him with the holy chrism and is the first to impose hands on him – followed by the other priests who are present at the ordination. The newly ordained priest makes a solemn promise of obedience to his bishop.

Deacons too, whose ministry is to assist the priests, are ordained by the bishop and given a role of service within the community. Married men, can be admitted to the diaconate. They have no power to celebrate the Eucharist, forgive sins in Confession or anoint the sick. Their task is to serve the poor in the community, to assist a Holy Mass and support the priest.

To learn how you can receive this sacrament, please visit our vocations section.