Challenges to Worship and Sacraments

1. Can’t a person go directly to God without the help of the Church or a priest? (CCC, 1538-1539)

a. Any person can always pray directly to God. However, God established the Church as a way for him to teach us, and to enrich us with his grace. Jesus Christ gave us the Church and the Sacraments for our salvation (CCC, 774-776)

b. Sacraments provide an encounter with Christ which is unique and graced (CCC, 1076).

c. Sacraments celebrate and strengthen our unity and identity. (CCC, 774)

2. Can’t God forgive us directly when we are sorry for sin? (CCC, 1434, 1440-1445)

a. While God can forgive us however and whenever he wants, he knows what is best for us and has taught us through Jesus that he wants to forgive us through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. (cf., John 20: 21-23) (CCC, 1421, 1442)

b. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is necessary to forgive grave or mortal sins (CCC, 1468), but it is not essential for the forgiveness of venial sins (CCC, 1493)

c. People need to confess sins to face the reality of the wrong they have done, and in and through this Sacrament, they can be assured of forgiveness. (CCC, 1455-1457)

d. The Sacrament also gives the assurance of forgiveness to a truly repentant person (CCC, 1452-1453).

3. Aren’t the Sacraments just celebrations to mark significant moments in our life? (CCC, 1066, 1070)

a. While the Sacraments are usually celebrated at appropriate or significant moments or events in our lives, they are much more than simply celebrations of those moments. They are personal encounters with Christ who acts through Sacraments to help us. (CCC, 1088-1090)

b. Each Sacrament gives a special grace. (CCC, 1129)

4. Is there any difference between receiving Holy Communion in a Catholic Church and going to communion in a Protestant worship service? (CCC, 1411)

a. Yes, there are differences:

1). Because of Apostolic succession and the priesthood, Holy Eucharist in the Catholic Church is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Churches without Apostolic succession and the priesthood do not have that gift (CCC, 817-822; 1411).

2). Reception of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is a statement of belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and of unity with all Catholics throughout the world (CCC, 1376, 1391, <1398).

b. Because of these differences, Catholics must not take communion in Protestant worship services and non-Catholics must not receive Holy Communion in Catholic Churches (CCC, 1411).

5. How do we know that any of the Sacraments really work? For example, if a person dies after receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, does that mean it did not work? (CCC, 1500-1501; 1503-1505; 1508-1509; 1520-1523)

a. The effects that the grace we receive through the Sacraments is not something that can be seen or measured.

b. Each of the Sacraments is effective whether we feel it or not; it is sometimes only in looking back that we can recognize how Christ has touched us and helped us through the Sacraments.

c. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick can have different effects. Sometimes Christ does bring about physical healing through that Sacrament. Other times, the healing is spiritual in that it helps the person be better prepared for death, to be at peace and to be eager to be with the Lord.