God lovingly touches all the stages of life through the seven sacraments of the Church. While the sacraments are rich in symbolism, they also have meaning in our everyday lives. This is beautifully expressed by St Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century, who described a sacrament as "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace".
The sacraments nourish, strengthen and express our faith. The grace we receive in the sacraments, God’s communication of love to us, leads us then to express that love, worshipping God and living the life Christ reveals to us through the Spirit. Grace transforms us, for the knowledge and experience of love can do nothing less.
The seven sacraments are Baptism, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession and absolution), Holy Matrimony, Confirmation, Ordination (Holy Orders or Sacred Ministry) and the Holy Unction (Anointing with Holy Oil).
Baptism with water (whether by sprinkling, pouring or immersion) is the initiation rite for every Christian, and uniquely among the sacraments, is almost universally accepted by mainline Christian churches throughout the world.
The Eucharist, often called Mass or Holy Communion, is the central act of Christian worship, when the people of God come together to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Reconciliation is an opportunity to confess our sins in confidence to a priest, and to seek absolution as a reminder that God forgives our weaknesses when we are truly sorry.
Holy Matrimony is a joyous occasion when two souls commit to become one - connected together with God.
Confirmation is celebrated when a person who has been baptised, often as an infant, is prepared to profess their Christian faith anew. Through the laying on of the bishop's hands, and anointing with holy oil, the confirmee is strengthened in the confession of their faith, and assured of its indelible character.
Ordination is the admission of women and men to the three ministries (or holy orders) of the Church. Deacons assist priests in ministry, with a special responsibility for proclaiming the Holy Gospel. Priests are the "shepherds who tend the flock" at the local level, on behalf of the Bishops, who are the chief shepherds in the region to which they are appointed or elected.
Holy Unction is the anointing of the sick and dying with Holy Oil, often accompanied by prayer or a short act of worship. It is an intimate reminder that when we are weak, and need God to comfort us, that God is always there.