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“So let me get this right: you Catholics believe these rituals you perform actually do something? You think God acts through them to give you grace?”
In short, yes. But this shouldn’t seem strange to a Christian. Protestants believe that Jesus calls men and women into his Church though the teaching and preaching and friendly conversation of his people. Protestants believe that God communicates his love through the loving actions of his people, that we are Christ’s hands and feet and voice in this world.
Catholics simply believe that God has chosen to grant many of his graces in this way — through his body, the Church. While the Gospels relate all that Jesus “began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1,2); the book of Acts relates what Jesus continued to do and teach, by the Holy Spirit and through his Church.
Through the sacraments, Catholics believe, God acts to cleanse us from sin and nourish us spiritually. The sacraments are “efficacious signs”, to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They are visible signs or actions through which the Holy Spirit actually imparts the graces depicted by each sign.
A few Good Articles
A few Good Talks
by Fr. Michael Schmitz
In this talk Mike Schmitz. one of the leading speakers to young people in the Church today, explains how Christians truly become sons and daughters of God the Father for all eternity through the sacrament of Baptism. A great introduction to the topic.
by Brant Pitre
by Fr. Larry Richards
by Scott Hahn
How important are the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church? Are they merely symbols of God’s love or channels of His grace in the lives of believers today? in this set of talks Scott Hahn gives insight into the meaning of gives Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Confession, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony?
by Steve Ray
Speaking from his own personal experience as a Baptist with a strong Biblical background, Steve offers in this series on the sacraments an interesting perspective by contrasting the diverse Evangelical and Catholic views. He quotes extensively from the Early Fathers to confirm that the Church’s teaching is rooted in the very words and actions of Christ and was faithfully practiced by the Apostles.
by Tim Staples
In this series, Tim Staples explains and defends the nature and purpose of the sacraments and reminds us that our lives should be centered around them — because through them God infuses new life into us. You could say the seven sacraments are our “stairway to heaven.” Listen to volume 1 and you’ll want II as well.
A few Good Books
by Fr. Paul Haffner
The seven sacraments lie at the centre of Christian life and experience, for here God the Holy Trinity touches human lives and hearts. This book is wonderful in the total picture it gives o these mysteries — and a written in a way that is clear and understandable.
by Scott Hahn
Here Dr. Hahn explores the meaning of the most solemn, majestic, and beautiful gifts Jesus has given His Church. He endowed the sacraments with power to change lives and save souls. They are the ordinary means by which we are given a share in the very life of God.
by Tim Gray
Sacraments in Scripture is an excellent tool for deepening one’s understanding of the biblical basis for the mystery of Christ’s abiding presence with us through the sacraments.