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The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church

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There are seven sacraments administered in the Catholic Church. What are they, and what do they do? Why do human beings require sacramentalized, visible realities to seal their confession of faith in Jesus Christ? Why does the Catholic Church administer the sacraments in the way that it does?

Leading Catholic theologian Romanus Cessario, OP, offers an in-depth explanation of the seven sacraments celebrated in the Catholic Church. He addresses the rationale for the sacraments and provides detailed exposition of each one, highlighting the importance of the Catholic tradition--and of Thomas Aquinas, in particular--for contemporary reflection on the sacraments.

This book examines why participation in the sacramental life of the Church is required for the believing Christian and helps readers understand the role the sacraments play in the sanctification of the world.

Part 1: Catholic Sacramental Theology
1. Catholic Theology
2. Sacramental Theology after the Council
3. Some Preliminary Notions of Causality
4. Some Fresh Perspectives on the Sacramental Economy
5. The Saving Work of Christ
6. The Sacramental Economy
7. Christ, Justification, and Faith
8. Efficacy and Sacramental Character
9. The Nature of a Sacrament
10. The Necessity of the Sacraments
11. How Sacramental Mediation Works
12. The Number of the Sacraments
Part 2: The Seven Sacraments
13. Baptism
14. Confirmation
15. Eucharist
16. Penance and Reconciliation
17. Anointing of the Sick
18. Holy Orders
19. Matrimony


"When I hear people describe themselves as spiritual rather than religious--especially if they are Christians of a sort--I wonder how they can turn their backs on the massive display of divine love that is at the heart of the sacramental economy. Christ's love for us has led him to share the infinite bounty of his passion, death, and resurrection in the seven sacraments of the Church, pouring from his side the blood 'of which a single drop has power to win all the world forgiveness of its world of sin' (Adoro te devote). In its magisterial presentation of the theology of the sacraments and of their divinely assured efficacy in every circumstance of the Christian life, this wonderful book makes clear on every page that we must rely not our own resources but on the power of God's grace in giving us communion with the Blessed Trinity, forgiving our sins, and providing us with the bread of angels. This is an essential guide for Catholic students at every level of catechetical and theological formation."

Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, OP, Vatican City

"In this lucid account of the 'holy signs' of the New Covenant, Romanus Cessario seeks to show that sacramental theologians cannot be mere copies of social-anthropological students of myth and ritual. Only a robust metaphysic can bring out the way divine agency is set to work in the sacraments, the 'separated instruments' of the Word incarnate, for the restoration and perfection of the 'image of God' in human life. The author succeeds admirably in this attempt."

Aidan Nichols, OP, Sometime Pope John Paul II Lecturer in Roman Catholic Theology, University of Oxford

"With a rare combination of learning and lucid expression, Romanus Cessario tells us everything we need to know about the sacraments. This is a book that should deepen any reader's experience of the way each sacrament confers, strengthens, or restores holiness."

Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, emerita, Harvard University

"The graces of the sacraments strengthen our human powers and make us holy. Fr. Cessario is a master guide to delving into the depths of their beauty and power. This book is a treasure trove for understanding the ineffable reality of the Catholic faith."

Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow and director of the Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society, National Review Institute; author of A Year with the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living

"The Catholic life is defined by the reception of the sacraments and their effects on the whole human person. This basic and foundational claim underscores the vital importance for every Catholic to acquire a correct and comprehensive account of the nature, goal, and effects of the sacramental life and of the individual sacraments. Such an account should also bring to light the fundamental continuity of the Catholic understanding of the sacraments throughout the vicissitudes of the two-thousand-year history of the Catholic tradition. It takes a seasoned theologian, preacher, and writer like Fr. Cessario to accomplish precisely this goal. Deeply steeped in the Thomist tradition and drawing on a rich and many-faceted life as a priest, a teacher, and a preacher, Fr. Cessario has written a remarkable book that aims to encourage the faithful to embrace, both intellectually and spiritually, the sacraments as 'rhythms of salvation unto everlasting life.' A broad audience of lay faithful and clerics will appreciate and profit from the vivid and engaging way in which Fr. Cessario presents the Catholic tradition and its intellectual and spiritual underpinnings. This book will undoubtedly deepen faith in and cultivate practice of the sacraments. For this accomplishment and service Fr. Cessario cannot be thanked enough."

Jörgen Vijgen, Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Vatican City

"In this book, noted Dominican theologian Romanus Cessario offers a clear, concise, and comprehensive introduction to the order of sacramental grace as a whole as well as to each of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church--all of this from within the theological tradition that the doctor communis, St. Thomas Aquinas, has bequeathed to the Church. At a time and age in which the 'immanent frame' of modern secularism has begun to impact the Catholic faith itself and its understanding of the sacraments, an uninhibited emphasis on the supernatural nature and causality of the seven sacraments is especially welcome. For the full recovery of a non-reductive understanding of the grace of the sacraments, this book is indispensable and welcome reading."

Reinhard Hütter, Ordinary Professor of Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology, The Catholic University of America; Ordinary Academician of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas; Appointed Member of the International Theological Commissi

"Cessario's The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church will be valued for its comprehensive character. Beyond a treatment of each sacrament, there is robust and substantial treatment of the necessity, nature, number, and especially causality of the sacraments."

Guy Mansini, OSB, Max Seckler Chair of Theology, Ave Maria University

The Authors

  1. Romanus Cessario OP

    Romanus Cessario OP

    Romanus Cessario, OP (STD, University of Fribourg) holds the Adam Cardinal Maida Chair of Theology at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida. He was named and remains an Ordinary Academician of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas....

    Continue reading about Romanus Cessario OP

  2. Romanus Cessario

    Romanus Cessario

    Romanus Cessario, OP (STD, University of Fribourg) holds the Adam Cardinal Maida Chair of Theology at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida. He was named and remains an Ordinary Academician of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas....

    Continue reading about Romanus Cessario