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Many non-Catholics are aware of the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. Whether they’ve been invited to a friend’s or relative’s Holy Communion of Confirmation or their own faith has similar ceremonies, non-Catholics can often give a basic description of what each of these well-known sacraments symbolizes.
But what about the remaining Sacraments? Each of the Seven Sacraments bears its own significance and special meaning.
The administration of the Sacraments of Initiation, which include Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion, vary depending on the church. For example, the Byzantine (Eastern) Catholic Church still administers all three Sacraments at infancy. This is similar to the early days of the Catholic Church, when the apostles administered all three at the same time. The Latin (Western) Catholic Church has long separated the three Sacraments. In the Latin Catholic Church, Baptism is administered at infancy, Holy Communion is received around the age of 7 or 8, and members of the church are confirmed at adolescence, typically at the age of 13 or 14.
Each of the Sacraments of Initiation has its own significance.
* Baptism: This is when infants enter or are initiated into the Catholic Church.
* Confirmation: At Confirmation, Catholics assume personal responsibility for their faith.
* Holy Communion: It is through Holy Communion that Catholics express their unity with the church and its teachings.
The Sacraments of Community are Matrimony and Holy Orders.
* Matrimony: When Catholics marry, the couple is made a part of their Catholic community.
* Holy Orders: Most Catholics do not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This is the Sacrament by which Catholics are ordained for a special role or ministry. The Holy Orders refers to the roles of bishop, priest and deacon.
The Sacraments of Mercy are largely symbolic of spiritual healing.
* Penance: The Sacrament of Penance is commonly referred to as Confession, when Catholics confess their sins to a priest. This is meant to release Catholics from the burden of their sins and to help them begin the healing process that helps them strengthen their faith.
* Anointing of the Sick: The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is administered to Catholics by a priest. This sacrament is often administered to Catholics just before their death and is meant to forgive their sins and strengthen their souls to face the spiritual and physical challenges of their condition.