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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… The Seven Sacraments Of The New Law

November 5, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 1

Wanderer readers have seen articles about the book Defense of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther, a masterpiece of Catholic apologetics written by King Henry VIII in his Catholic times, helped by the Great Defender of the Faith in England, St. Thomas More. I had the privilege to be the editor of the new Millennium Edition of the book and had it dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, as a fraternal reminder of the happy days in which England and Rome shared one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism (Eph. 4:5) in the One Church of God, the Pillar and mainstay of the Truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
The book is available from my website, www.RaymonddeSouza.com, and I wish to explain Church teaching on the sacraments in more detail and in a simpler language. This is of utmost importance today, since there are certain authorities in the Church, like the bishops of Malta, who state that people living in adultery may receive the sacraments, as long as they “feel at peace” to do it.
So, in order to clarify the teaching and avoid every confusion, let us delve into it.
There are Seven Sacraments of the New Law, neither more nor less: Baptism, Confirmation, the Blessed Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
How many of those did the Church institute? None. All the sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself. No Pope or council has the power or competence to invent — or abolish — a sacrament.
Sacraments are not like prayer, which may or may not be heard, depending on people’s dispositions. No. The sacraments truly cause grace in whoever is fit to receive them. The Sacraments of the New Law confer grace ex opere operato, that is, by virtue of performance of the rite itself. It does not depend on the good dispositions of the recipient. As long as he is fit to receive the sacrament, he is not obliged to have the best possible dispositions.
One can receive Confession and Communion many times in one’s lifetime, but the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders can be received only once in a lifetime. And why is that so? Because they imprint a character, or indelible mark, on the soul, never to be erased. Consequently, they cannot be received more than once. For this reason, a priest is and will be a priest forever, in Heaven or in Hell. The same happens to a baptized person or one who has been confirmed.
But if the sacrament produces its effect on the person by virtue of the performance of the rite itself, the same does not apply to the person who administers the sacrament. For the minister to confer a sacrament validly, he must intend to do what the Church does, even though he may not fully understand it or not feel like doing it. As long as he intends to do as the Church wants, the sacrament will be valid, even if he is in mortal sin, and not in a state of grace.
So, in the sad event that a priest is in mortal sin, he can baptize and celebrate Mass and absolve the penitent’s sin, and the sacrament will be valid. He will be in trouble, of course, but as long as he intends to do as the Church teaches him, the sacrament will be valid.
Now, how do we define a sacrament? Please ponder this definition, word by word: A sacrament is an outward rite instituted by Christ, the Son of God, to signify grace, and to give the grace it signifies.
Now let us break it down: a sacrament is an outward rite, that is, a rite, a gesture, that can be perceived by the senses, can be seen and/or heard. This is important to understand because Christ founded a visible Church, with visible people, not an invisible Church only in the mind of His disciples. He, therefore, gave to His Church visible, or outward, rites and ceremonies.
That is why we find that people become members of the Church by the rite of Baptism, a visible ceremony, ordinarily performed in front of witnesses. The pastors of the Church are solemnly and publicly ordained, normally in front of a large congregation; the same with marriages between its members, as the ceremony takes place in public.
And, in general, so that everyone openly professes his faith, and manifests his unity, they will all avail themselves of the same public rites, and seek spiritual life and strength at the same fountains of grace.
But Christ also gave us these outward rites for another reason: because He wished us to know with certainty and through the evidence of our senses the exact moment His grace is given to us. Hence, we hear the priest absolving our sins in Confession, or the bishop’s words and gestures at Confirmation. It is important that our senses perceive the rite, because, as St John Chrysostom says, “if you were without a body, He would have given you simple and incorporeal gifts, but since your soul is united to a body, He gives you spiritual things in visible things” (Hom. in Matt. 82, 4).
It is fundamental to emphasize that it was our Lord Jesus Christ who instituted the seven sacraments, contrary to what the heresiarch Martin Luther asserted. No Pope of the Catholic Church has ever claimed to have the power to institute a sacrament.
Christ Himself is the institutor of all the sacraments a) because He earned by His Passion, and marked off, the grace which each should confer, and b) because He personally appointed the several sacramental rites — in detail for Baptism and the Blessed Eucharist, and in general outline for the rest.
The seven sacraments confer sanctifying grace, or an increase of sanctifying grace. They also confer sacramental grace, by which is meant the “gifts proper to the different sacraments.” Each sacrament grants a special grace of its own.
More on that in the next article.

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. He is a militant pro-life writer and apologist, addressing live audiences and delivering talks on television, radio, and online. To date he has given over 2,500 presentations in 38 countries of the six continents. He is available to speak at Catholic events, both large and small, anywhere in the Free World, in four languages — English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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