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Daily Catholic Question

What are the sacraments?

We have been taught that there are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage and Holy Orders. When people today hear that Jesus is a sacrament and the Church is a sacrament they sometimes wonder, Does that makes nine sacraments? The question "How many sacraments are there?" has received different answers at various periods of our history depending on what the question meant and how the questioner understood the word sacrament.

In our industrial America assigning qualities to numbers as symbols (for instance, thinking "13" is unlucky) usually sounds strange or superstitious. But this use is quite common in other societies and other historical periods. Numbers as qualities have often been used in religion. Seven, for example, symbolizes totality. This is an important factor in the Church's speaking of seven sacraments.

Four is the number for earth and three is the number for heaven. (There are four elements: earth, air, fire and water. There are three Persons in God.) When we join earth and heaven, the material and the spiritual, the created and the divine, four and three, we have "all that is." And so, seven means universal, completeness, totality. When we say that there are seven sacraments we are suggesting in this religious sense that the material universe is a sacrament; all created things are windows to the divine; we have all the sacraments we will ever need! (Seven is frequently used in this sense of "completeness": There are "seven gifts" of the Holy Spirit and there are "seven Churches" in the Book of Revelation, symbolizing the universal Church.)

For the first 11 centuries of Christian history the word sacrament was frequently used to refer to the mysterious plan of God. Little by little specific aspects of this mysterious plan-for example, eucharist, baptism, anointing of the sick-began to be singled out and called sacraments. In the 12th century, we began to see the list of the seven actions which we now call sacraments. In 1547, responding to specific questions being asked at the time, the Council of Trent stated: "The sacraments of the new law are seven, no more and no less" (Session VII, Canon 1).


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Friday, September 6, 2013
Daily Catholic Question for 9/5/2013 Daily Catholic Question for 9/7/2013


Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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