The following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions.
Which are the Sacraments that increase sanctifying grace in our soul?
A. The Sacraments that increase sanctifying grace in our souls are: Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony; and they are called Sacraments of the living.
What do we mean by Sacraments of the dead and Sacraments of the living?
A. By the Sacraments of the dead we mean those Sacraments that may be lawfully received while the soul is in a state of mortal sin. By the Sacraments of the living we mean those Sacraments that can be lawfully received only while the soul is in a state of grace — i.e., free from mortal sin. Living and dead do not refer here to the persons, but to the condition of the souls; for none of the Sacraments can be given to a dead person.
Why are Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony called Sacraments of the living?
A. Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony are called Sacraments of the living because those who receive them worthily are already living the life of grace.
What sin does he commit who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sin?
A. He who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sin commits a sacrilege, which is a great sin, because it is an abuse of a sacred thing.
In what other ways besides the unworthy reception of the Sacraments may persons commit sacrilege?
A. Besides the unworthy reception of the Sacraments, persons may commit sacrilege by the abuse of a sacred person, place or thing; for example, by willfully wounding a person consecrated to God; by robbing or destroying a Church; by using the sacred vessels of the Altar for unlawful purposes, etc.
Besides sanctifying grace do the Sacraments give any other grace?
A. Besides sanctifying grace the Sacraments give another grace, called sacramental grace.
What is sacramental grace?
A. Sacramental grace is a special help which God gives, to attain the end for which He instituted each Sacrament.
Is the Sacramental grace independent of the sanctifying grace given in the Sacraments?
A. The Sacramental grace is not independent of the sanctifying grace given in the Sacraments; for it is the sanctifying grace that gives us a certain right to special helps — called Sacramental grace — in each Sacrament, as often as we have to fulfill the end of the Sacrament or are tempted against it.
Give an example of how the Sacramental grace aids us, for instance, in Confirmation and Penance.
A. The end of Confirmation is to strengthen us in our faith. When we are tempted to deny our religion by word or deed, the Sacramental Grace of Confirmation is given to us and helps us to cling to our faith and firmly profess it. The end of Penance is to destroy actual sin. When we are tempted to sin, the Sacramental Grace of Penance is given to us and helps us to overcome the temptation and persevere in a state of grace. The sacramental grace in each of the other Sacraments is given in the same manner, and aids us in attaining the end for which each Sacrament was instituted and for which we receive it.
Do the Sacraments always give grace?
A. The Sacraments always give grace, if we receive them with the right dispositions.
What do we mean by the “right dispositions” for the reception of the Sacraments?
A. By the right dispositions for the reception of the Sacraments we mean the proper motives and the fulfillment of all the conditions required by God and the Church for the worthy reception of the Sacraments.
Give an example of the “right dispositions” for Penance and for the Holy Eucharist.
A. The right dispositions for Penance are:
To confess all our mortal sins as we know them;
To be sorry for them, and
To have the determination never to commit them or others again.
The right dispositions for the Holy Eucharist are:
To know what the Holy Eucharist is;
To be in a state of grace, and
– except in special cases of sickness — to be fasting from midnight.