Key points:
  • Sacraments are vehicles of God’s grace.
  • Sacraments are ways in which the church over the years has come to recognise a common experience of divine action.
  • There are differences of opinion across Christendom about how many ‘official’ sacraments there are, but generally a common understanding of what one is.
  • Not all Christians give equal weight to the importance of sacrament.
  1. The formal definition of a sacrament is: “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”.
  2. The two ‘undisputed’ sacraments are Baptism and Eucharist
  3. The efficacy of a sacrament is not reliant on the skill of the minister, or the understanding of the recipient.

This talk does not benefit from being used as a flag-waving exercise about different churchmanship. To place it in the appropriate context of the flow of the talks it needs to sensitively explore the concept of divine activity (grace) being seen as active in tactile human activities, some of which in various ways are recognised as held in common in our various understandings.
Rather than focusing on the easy business of enumerating all seven (Catholic) sacraments and identifying what in each is the outward sign and what the inward grace, it may be more helpful (but more difficult) to invite exploration of a wider application of a sacramental understanding of how to identify the divine at work in the ordinary.
Eucharist is often seen as the supreme sacrament, as in it Jesus himself is present. It may be useful to note that we may come to the table with differing appreciations of exactly how and where that presence is to be found, but we agree that we experience through it a special encounter.