The Sacrament of Confession via the Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction site.
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.
On the Sacraments in General
What do we mean by the “right intention” for the administration of the Sacraments?
A. By the right intention for the administration of the Sacraments we mean that whoever administers a Sacrament must have the intention of doing what Christ intended when He instituted the Sacrament and what the Church intends when it administers the Sacrament.
Is there any likeness between the thing used in the outward sign and the grace given in each Sacrament?
A. There is a great likeness between the thing used in the outward sign and the grace given in each Sacrament; thus water is used for cleansing; Baptism cleanses the soul; Oil gives strength and light; Confirmation strengthens and enlightens the soul; Bread and wine nourish; the Holy Eucharist nourishes the soul.
What do we mean by the “matter and form” of the Sacraments?
A. By the “matter” of the Sacraments we mean the visible things, such as water, oil, bread, wine, etc., used for the Sacraments. By the “form” we mean the words, such as “I baptize thee,” “I confirm thee,” etc., used in giving or administering the Sacraments.
Do the needs of the soul resemble the needs of the body?
A. The needs of the soul do resemble the needs of the body; for the body must be born, strengthened, nourished, healed in affliction, helped at the hour of death, guided by authority, and given a place in which to dwell. The soul is brought into spiritual life by Baptism; it is strengthened by Confirmation; nourished by the Holy Eucharist; healed by Penance; helped at the hour of our death by Extreme Unction; guided by God’s ministers through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and it is given a body in which to dwell by the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Q. 589. Whence have the Sacraments the power of giving grace?
A. The Sacraments have the power of giving grace from the merits of Jesus Christ.
. Does the effect of the Sacraments depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who administers them?
A. The effect of the Sacraments does not depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who administers them, but on the merits of Jesus Christ, who instituted them, and on the worthy dispositions of those who receive them.
What grace do the Sacraments give?
A. Some of the Sacraments give sanctifying grace, and others increase it in our souls.
When is a Sacrament said to give, and when is it said to increase, grace in our souls?
A. A Sacrament is said to give grace when there is no grace whatever in the soul, or in other words, when the soul is in mortal sin. A Sacrament is said to increase grace when there is already grace in the soul, to which more is added by the Sacrament received.
Which are the Sacraments that give sanctifying grace?
A. The Sacraments that give sanctifying grace are Baptism and Penance; and they are called Sacraments of the dead.
. Why are Baptism and Penance called Sacraments of the dead?
A. Baptism and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead because they take away sin, which is the death of the soul, and give grace, which is its life.
May not the Sacrament of Penance be received by one who is in a state of grace?
A. The Sacrament of Penance may be and very often is received by one who is in a state of grace, and when thus received it increases — as the Sacraments of the living do — the grace already in the soul.