Sacraments are the life blood of the Catholic Church.
After the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church started on a clean up, and among the efforts was the Council of Trent which was a meeting of church leaders in 25 sessions from 1545 to 1563, under 3 different popes of the time. Among the things they discussed and concurred on was the Roman Catechism, a document written in Latin that was used by priests to teach the faithful. In 1884, the US Bishops gathered in Baltimore, MD and decided to publish an English version of the catechism, and thus gave birth to the Baltimore Catechism, which was first published in 1891, and answered 100 questions about the faith.
The Baltimore Catechism was in use in schools in Canada as well as the US when I was a grade school student in the 1950's and 60's, and I remember to this day the definition of Sacrament from the book, though I confess to remembering nothing more specifically. The definition of a sacrament in the BC was the following: " A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace."
That was simple enough for my 5 year old mind to grasp and remember, though still hard to take to heart, where it now resides. More recently, Pope John Paul II issued the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, with translations starting in 1994. It did not make it into English until 2006.
Here is what the New Catechism says about sacraments in a section titled Article 2 THE PASCHAL MYSTERY IN THE CHURCH'S SACRAMENTS:
1131 The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. the visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.
1132 The Church celebrates the sacraments as a priestly community structured by the baptismal priesthood and the priesthood of ordained ministers.
1133 The Holy Spirit prepares the faithful for the sacraments by the Word of God and the faith which welcomes that word in well-disposed hearts. Thus the sacraments strengthen faith and express it.
1134 The fruit of sacramental life is both personal and ecclesial. For every one of the faithful an the one hand, this fruit is life for God in Christ Jesus; for the Church, on the other, it is an increase in charity and in her mission of witness.
The Church teaches that there are 7 sacraments, and they are classified as follows:
Sacraments of Christian InitiationWith this as an introduction, I intend to write from time to time about the various sacraments and what they mean to me as a Catholic, though I hope not to diverge in any way from Church teaching in the telling.
Sacraments of Healing
Penance and Reconciliation
Anointing of the Sick
Sacraments at the Service of Communion