Many of us on the journey to Catholicism had a hard time understanding the Church’s focus on the sacraments. What is a sacrament? Do Catholics really believe that through rituals such as the sprinkling of water, God actually does something, giving grace to His people?
Yes, this is really what Catholics believe.
But this shouldn’t seem strange to any Christian. Protestants, after all, believe that Jesus uses means to accomplish his work, that he speaks through his ministers, that He acts through his body, the Church — in short, that we who belong to Him are his hands and feet and voice in this world.
This is what Catholics refer to as the incarnational principle. We simply believe that as the Church continues Christ’s work in this world, so God has chosen to communicate his grace through visible signs or actions that, by the Holy Spirit, impart the graces that each of them depict. As a biblical illustration, think of Naaman the Syrian who dipped himself in Jordan River and was cleansed of his leprosy. Think of Jesus sending the man born blind to wash in the pool of Siloam in order to receive his sight. In either case, it’s not that the water was somehow “magical,” but God chose to use it give grace. This is precisely what Catholics believe happens through the sacraments.
Hear Our Stories
Here are a collection of testimonies from converts to the Catholic Church for whom the discovery of the sacraments played an important role.
There are tons of great resources available for learning about the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Here are some to get you going.
Recommended Articles & Documents
by Pope Francis
Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick — as Catholics we are familiar with the sacraments, and see them as mileposts in our lives. But, as Pope Francis so energetically reminds us, they are not simply observances, they are portals through which the Lord brings us all the power and graces that flow from his death and Resurrection.
by Alan Schreck
To be a Catholic is simply to be a Christian. In a friendly and gracious way, the author walks through the major teachings of Catholicism, including the Sacraments, showing how rooted they are in Sacred Scripture. This book is a wonderful introduction to the art of defending the faith from the Bible.
by Jimmy Akin
Seventy of the best tracts into one cohesive, comprehensive book that can be used by anyone, anytime, anywhere to defend the Catholic faith. The Essential Catholic Survival Guide is indexed according to topic in a unique question and answer format that allows the reader to find the right answer to any question instantly. It covers the questions and misconceptions people have about the Catholic faith on a variety of topics, including all the Sacraments.
by Dave Armstrong
Written in a popular and contemporary style, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism is an exposition and defense of the Catholic faith from Scripture. Each chapter offers a precise definition of the doctrine considered, including the Sacraments, with a brief explanation and verifying references from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
by Tim Gray
Sacraments in Scripture is an excellent tool for deepening one’s understanding of the biblical basis for the mystery of Christ’s abiding presence with us through the sacraments.
by Scott Hahn
Here Dr. Hahn explores the meaning of the most solemn, majestic, and beautiful gifts Jesus has given His Church. He endowed the sacraments with power to change lives and save souls. They are the ordinary means by which we are given a share in the very life of God.