What Are the Seven Holy Sacraments?

The seven holy sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation or Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage or Matrimony and Holy Orders. In the Catholic Church, the sacraments are considered a visible sign of God's grace.

The first three sacraments are deemed the sacraments of initiation. Baptism cleanses the soul and brings someone into the Catholic faith as a new person. Confirmation calls down the Holy Spirit on people receiving the sacrament to strengthen them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Eucharist or Holy Communion is the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ during the liturgy called Mass.

The next two sacraments are called sacraments of healing and were instituted to give strength to a person's soul. Through Reconciliation or Penance, a person tells his sins to a priest, who represents God, and is forgiven or absolved of his sins. Anointing of the sick occurs when a person is near death, sick, preparing for an important operation or in spiritual turmoil. A priest anoints the person with a special oil known as the holy chrism, prays over him and listens to the person's confession, if needed.

The last two sacraments are optional in the life of a Catholic and are called the sacraments in the service of communion. Matrimony is the union of a man and a woman in marriage in the eyes of the Church. Holy Orders is the consecration and acceptance of a man to minister to God's people. This sacrament is reserved for men who want to become priests or deacons. Because deacons can also be married, unlike priests, deacons are the only people who can receive all seven sacraments in their lifetimes.