The traditional definition of a sacrament is this: "A sacrament is a visible sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace." There are three statements here:
1. A visible sign
An action is performed by a minister. For example, when a baby is baptized in the church the minister pours water over its head and at the same time says the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." That is a visible sign.
2. Instituted by Christ
The Lord Jesus Christ instructed His church to offer the seven sacraments to His followers. For example, His directive to His disciples in Matthew's Gospel (28:19), "Go then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you."
3. To give grace
At the risk of over simplifying something that is very complex, we could describe grace as God's free gift of Himself as the controlling influence in our life and the decisions we make once we have committed ourselves to Him in faith.
In summary we can say that a sacrament is one of the means God has chosen to influence our life in the direction of his purpose for giving us life.
The sacraments are Christ's own gift that provide us with his grace.
They are the divine helps which God gives us to enable us to:
* Believe the truths of his faith
* Live according to his moral code
* Grow in his gift of divine life
The seven sacraments are a fundamental part of the Catholic faith. The Catholic sacraments are quite extraordinary: they are ordinary signs that do God's own work.
The seven sacraments—Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick—are the life of the Catholic Church. Each sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. When we participate in them worthily, each provides us with graces—with the life of God in our soul. In worship, we give to God that which we owe Him. In the sacraments, He gives us the graces necessary to live a truly human life.
The Sacraments of Initiation
The sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion—are the three primary sacraments, on which the rest of our life as a Christian depends.
The Sacrament of Baptism
The Sacrament of Baptism, one of the three sacraments of initiation, is the first of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. It removes the guilt and effects of Original Sin and incorporates the baptized into the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.
The Sacrament of Confirmation
The Sacrament of Confirmation is the second of the three sacraments of initiation. Confirmation perfects our baptism and brings us the graces of the Holy Spirit that were granted to the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
The third of the three sacraments of initiation, the Sacrament of Holy Communion is the reception of Christ's Body and Blood. This sacrament is the source of great graces that sanctify us and help us grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ.