A central part of Catholic life is the celebration of the Sacraments. The Sacraments are special public and communal rituals that the Catholic community celebrates. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, ‘the whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the Sacraments’ (CCC#1113). There are seven Sacraments in the Catholic Tradition. They are grouped under three headings. The first group is called the Sacraments of Initiation and they are the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The second group is called the Sacraments of Healing and they are the Sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. The third group is called the Vocational Sacraments and they are the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders.
The Catholic Church believes and teaches that the seven Sacraments were instituted by Jesus and given to the community of believers as a sign of the presence and power of God in our lives. That is why the Sacraments make sacred or holy important times and events in our lives. The birth of a child in often celebrated in Baptism. The love and commitment of husband and wife is celebrated in Marriage, our need for forgiveness by others and God is celebrated in Penance and our need for healing and strength when seriously ill is celebrated in the Anointing of the Sick.
The central Sacrament in Catholic life is the Eucharist or, as it is commonly known, the Mass. The Eucharist is at the heart of parish life, it is the reason the local Catholic community gathers each Sunday. The Eucharist is at the heart of Catholic identity. It is often described as 'the source and summit of the Christian life' (CCC # 1324). The Eucharist is the primary way that the Catholic community remembers Jesus and it is the public way we give thanks to God for all the good things we have in our lives. It is also the time that Catholics believe they are nourished and fed by the special presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine. This presence is called a real presence of the body and blood of Christ. The eating and drinking of this special presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine is called Holy Communion.