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About the Sacraments
> Baptism
> Reconciliation
> First Communion
> Confirmation
> Marriage
> Holy Orders
> Sacrament of the Sick
Learning About Mass
> Introductory Rite
> Opening Prayers
> Liturgy of the Word
> General Intercessions
> Liturgy of the Eucharist
> Communion
> Concluding Rite

Prayer & Worship
> Prayers
> Daily Saints
> Devotions
> Sacred Rites




About the Sacraments

acraments are celebrations of special moments of encounter between God and human beings. They are not, obviously, the only occasions when human beings consciously respond to God who is forever offering His love and friendship, but they are times when, the Catholic Church teaches, a person's relationship with God is assuredly initiated or deepened or strengthened or healed.


The following sections will introduce you to the Catholic Church's teaching on the seven sacraments. The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1113) Sacraments are "powers that come forth" from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are "the masterworks of God" in the new and everlasting covenant (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1116).
The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen and express it
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1123).

Sacraments described on this page:

     Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
     The Sacrament of Baptism
     The Sacrament of Confirmation
     The Sacrament of Eucharist



     Sacrament of Reconciliation
     First Penance
     The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick



     Sacrament of Matrimony
     Holy Orders





(Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist)

"The sacraments of Christian initiation - Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist - lay the foundations of every Christian life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1212).

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Christian Initiation of Adults - R.C.I.A.  

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults involves preparation for and celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, which reveal the intimate relation of these sacraments to one another. The Rite is designed primarily for the initiation of unbaptized adults. The Rite also provides for the initiation of unbaptized children of catechetical age (approximately 7 to 14 years of age), as well as for welcoming baptized Catholics and non-Catholics into full communion with the Catholic Church.

R.C.I.A. consists of four distinct periods of formation: Period of Inquiry; Period of the Catechumenate; Period of Enlightenment and Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis (mystagogy).

In June, 1996, the Archdiocese of Toronto issued a revised Pastoral Guide for the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children in the Archdiocese. The document contains the following information:

  • principles of Christian Initiation how to implement the Rite with adults (the various ministries, responsibilities) how to handle special circumstances a suggested initial interview format a suggested pre-admission inquiry form marriage situations that need to be referred to the Chancellor for Spiritual Affairs before a person may begin the initiation process a suggested ritual for celebrating the convalidation ("blessing") of a marriage within a celebration of the Word of God

  • a registration form for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children.

If you wish a copy of this publication, telephone the Catholic Office of Religious Education: 416-934-0606 ext. 507 or 510 or fax: 416-934-3444.

If you are interested in becoming a Catholic, contact your local Catholic parish.

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The Sacrament of Baptism

Baptism is the first of the sacraments of initiation into the Catholic church. It makes us adopted children of God, incorporates us into Christ, pardons all our sin, and forms us into God’s people. It confers a permanent relationship ("character") with Christ and his Church which lasts even should one cease to be an active member of the Catholic community. For this reason a validly baptized Christian is never re-baptized and has the right to a Christian funeral.

Bishops, priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers of baptism, although anyone with the right intention may administer the sacrament in case of imminent death. The words for conferring baptism in the Latin Church are: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".

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Christian Initiation of Children  

Baptism of infants takes place within the first few weeks after birth in the parish Church. It is highly desirable that baptisms take place during Sunday Eucharist when the parish community is assembled for worship. Otherwise, baptisms are scheduled by the parish staff, as required. It is important to recall that this sacrament is a church and not a family celebration, that the parents must have the intention of raising the child in the Catholic faith and that both parents and godparents are to be instructed on the serious responsibility they take upon themselves when they present their children for baptism.

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The Sacrament of Confirmation  

"... by the Sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285).

All baptized persons who have not been confirmed and only they are capable of being confirmed. It is required, if the person has the use of reason, that he/she be suitably instructed, properly disposed and able to renew his/her baptismal promises (canon 889).

In the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Cardinal Archbishop has recently delegated authority to pastors to confirm their parishioners due to the large size of the diocese and to enable young people to be Confirmed on or close to the Feast of Pentecost.

Sponsors for this sacrament are ideally, the same persons who served as one’s baptismal sponsors. They are intended to be models of faith and so must be Confirmed themselves, be practising their faith, and be mature enough (usually sixteen years or older) to carry out the role of sponsor. A sponsor can be either male or female. Parents cannot be sponsors for their own children (canons 874 and 893).

Young people in the Archdiocese of Toronto are ordinarily Confirmed in their grade eight year. This applies as well to children of catechetical age (7 to 14 years) who were not baptized as infants but as young children.

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The Sacrament of Eucharist  

"The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322).

"The Eucharist is the ‘source and summit of the Christian life’. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324)

If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: "Do this in remembrance of me."

We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.

We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:

    • thanksgiving and praise to the Father;the sacrificial memorial of Christand his Body;

    • the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1356, 1357, 1358).

First Communion  

The decision concerning an individual child’s readiness to receive First Communion rests in the first place with the child’s parents in consultation with the child’s parish priest and teacher(s). However, it is the duty of the parish priest to see to it that children who have not yet reached the use of reason, or whom he has judged to be insufficiently prepared, do not come to Holy Communion (canon 914).

Adequate preparation (in the Archdiocese of Toronto) is understood to be the successful completion of the initial preparation for this sacrament (either in a Catholic school or in a parish) and of the immediate preparation provided by the parish for all First Communion candidates (e.g. enrolment of all candidates for First Eucharist and, where these exist, additional classes). (Norms for Sacramental Preparation, Archdiocese of Toronto, 76)


See "Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick".

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The Eucharistic Fast

The regulation for fasting is considered a means of spiritual preparation for receiving the Eucharist and a symbol of reverence for the sacrament. The Eucharistic Fast is limited to one hour before actually receiving the Eucharist. It pertains to all solid food and all drinks, except water. Taking medicine does not break the fast. The fast applies to priests who celebrate the Mass and to the faithful, regardless of what time of day the Mass is celebrated and Communion is received. Those who are sick, in hospitals - even if not confined to bed - and those caring for the sick, may receive communion even if they have taken food during the previous hour.


(Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick)

"The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health (Cf. Mk 2:1-12), has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1421)

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Sacrament of Reconciliation  

"According to the Church’s Command, after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1457)

However, the Church encourages Catholics to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance at least monthly throughout our lifetime so that we can benefit from the graces obtained through reception of this sacrament.

This sacrament reconciles us with God and joins us to him in intimate friendship. It also reconciles us with the Church and revitalizes her life which we have weakened by our sin.

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First Penance  

Children must be prepared simultaneously for the two sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist since the opportunity of receiving both according to the designated order begins at the same time. The universal law of the Church states that First Communion is to be preceded by sacramental confession (canon 914). Given that a child who has the idea of God, which is necessary for First Communion, could also grasp the concept of sin, priests, parents and catechists may not determine without proper consultation whether or not children may receive First Communion before First Reconciliation.

The basis for this preparation is not so much the state of sin in which a child may be but rather the formative and pastoral aim to educate to the true Christian spirit of penance and conversion, to growth in self-knowledge and self-control, to the sense of sin, to the necessity of asking for pardon from God and above all to a loving and confident abandonment to the mercy of the Lord. (Norms for Sacramental Preparation, Archdiocese of Toronto, 78, 80)

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The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick  

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is celebrated with those who are seriously ill, those who are preparing for surgery, and the elderly. This sacrament of healing is meant to heal the whole person, spiritually and physically while at the same time reassuring the person of God’s love and mercy. The preferred place for celebrating this sacrament is in the church with family and members of the church community present. Celebrating the sacrament before entering the hospital means the ill person can better appreciate the prayers and symbols of the rite.

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For those who are about to die, the Church, in addition to the Anointing of the Sick, offers the Eucharist as viaticum - food for their journey home.

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(Matrimony and Holy Orders)

"Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1534)

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Sacrament of Matrimony  

"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601).

In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholics normally takes place during Mass because of the connection of all the sacraments with the death and resurrection of Christ.

The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent. The Church holds "the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that ‘makes the marriage’" (Catechism,1626). If there is no true consent, there is no marriage.

A couple wishing to marry should contact their parish priest one year prior to the anticipated date of the wedding. Couples are required to engage in a marriage preparation process provided or arranged by the parish. Such preparation allows the couple to come to a deeper knowledge of each other and of the sacrament they will receive, including the reasons for its indissolubility.

Your Wedding Music

During this time of preparation for your joyous celebration of the sacrament of marriage, we wish to help you to plan the music for your wedding liturgy. Like all of the Church's sacramental celebrations, the wedding liturgy directs our hearts and minds to the praise and glory of God. The music must thus be chosen with care, according to sound liturgical principles. The guidelines that we use to select music for marriage are the same as those that we use for the Sunday Eucharist. This pamphlet provides the preliminary guidelines for choosing music for your wedding liturgy.


We recommend that you discuss music with your parish priest when you first meet with him about your wedding. He can answer your initial questions and inform you of any parish policy regarding wedding music and the use of musicians other than your parish music leaders. He can also give you the name(s) of parish music leaders who will help you to choose the music for your wedding, as they are familiar with both the policies and the musical repertoire of your own parish. They will also assist you in securing musicians and a cantor.

It is very important that you know the parish policy about music and musicians before you choose music or hire musicians.


Music is one of the finest expressions of joy that comes from the heart. It speaks a language that is understood by all cultures and traditions. Music:

  • Unites a people of faith in praise and thanksgiving to God, who touches our lives in so many wonderful ways. Fosters the ecclesial dimension of a celebration, bonding individuals into a community, heightening their sense of worshipping as a people, the people of God. Unity of voices brings about unity of hearts. Helps people to express with more meaning and conviction the words of the liturgy especially the acclamations such as 'Alleluia' or 'Amen'.

  • Gives deeper meaning to prayer: to sing well is to pray twice.

By choosing to be married in the Church, you are expressing your desire for a sacred and sacramental celebration of your vows of mutual and lasting fidelity. The music that you choose should lift the congregation's hearts in praise and thanksgiving for this joyful and holy beginning of your lives together.


It is important to keep in mind that your wedding music is first and foremost prayer; it is worship of God. For this reason, secular music, however expressive of love, is not used in Catholic wedding liturgies. A document published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops notes:

  • "There are very deeply religious songs which have a "secular" origin, and many so called "religious" songs are trashy and sentimental. What is being brought to expression in a wedding liturgy is the mystery of human love as a covenant relationship…Songs which express the religious dimension of love explicitly, of course, have pride of choice. Songs which imply this religious dimension are also suitable. But a song which denies this dimension either explicitly or implicitly must be avoided at all costs, for it belies the mystery: it is a falsehood in liturgy." (1)

(1) Music at your Wedding, edited by the National Liturgical Office, published by the C.C.C.B. (Ottawa: Concacan, Inc. 1980). This document is now out of print.

If you are unsure of the origin or context of a particular piece of music, your parish music leader(s) will be able to help you. Secondly, the selection and arrangements of music in the wedding liturgy should respect the role of the assembly as full, active participants in the liturgy. The music chosen should enable the believing community to express the faith of the universal Church. Your parish music leaders will help you to select music that will foster this expression. The music chosen for the wedding liturgy should be familiar to the people of the church where the celebration takes place, and familiar to those attending the wedding. Be sure to inform your music leader if your wedding involves another religion or Christian denomination so that music may be chosen from a common repertoire. The primary resource for your wedding music is normally your parish hymnal; if you choose something that is not in the hymnal, a music programme should be provided so that the assembly will be able to participate.

If a programme is used, copyright laws must be followed. Your parish musicians will be able to assist you in obtaining reprint permission.


There are several places in the wedding liturgy where music is appropriate. Your parish music leader(s) or priest will help you to choose music in some or all of the following parts of the liturgy, especially the parts in bold print:

Gathering Hymn
Lord, have mercy/Glory to God
Responsorial Psalm
Gospel Acclamation
Music during the preparation of the gifts:
* Holy, Holy
* Memorial Acclamation
* Great Amen
* Lord's Prayer
* Lamb of God
* Communion song (during the communion procession)
* Hymn of praise after communion
Music during the signing of the register
Closing Hymn/Recessional

(*) Indicates places in the wedding liturgy where there may be music when the Rite of Marriage is celebrated with the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Mass)

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Holy Orders  

"Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time; thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate <bishops>, presbyterate <priests> and diaconate <deacons>
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1536)

The essential rite of this sacrament for all three degrees consists in the bishop’s imposition of hands on the head of the ordained and his specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained. It is desirable that the ceremony take place within the Eucharistic liturgy and that as many of the faithful as possible take part.

If you wish more information on the priesthood or assistance with discerning whether or not God is calling you to this vocation, contact Father Chris Lemieux, Rector, Serra House, 226A St. George St., Toronto, Ont., M5R 2N5. Phone: 416-968-0997.

If you wish information concerning the permanent diaconate, contact Steven Pitre, Catholic Pastoral Centre, 1155 Yonge St., Toronto, Ont., M4T 1W2. Phone: 416-934-0606, ext. 304.

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Sacramental Norms  

In 1996, the Archdiocese issued the Norms for Sacramental Preparation in our Archdiocese for First Reconciliation, First Eucharist and Confirmation. The norms attempt to respect the fundamental principle that parents are the primary educators of their children.In his introductory letter, Cardinal Ambrozic expressed his hope that "priests who serve in our parishes and the teachers and principals in our Catholic schools will work closely together to prepare our children to meet the risen Lord in the sacraments".In 2002, the Norms were modified and up-dated in light of the experience in parishes and schools of implementing the 1996 Norms. Cardinal Ambrozic, in his covering letter, acknowledged the crucial role of our Catholic teachers and principals in the faith formation of our children. "Parents are the primary religious educators of their children. At the same time, our Catholic schools continue to take on much of the responsibility for the religious education of our young people. By their instruction and by their example of Catholic Christian living, our teachers are crucially involved in the overall faith formation of our children and particularly in their preparation for First Confession, First Communion and Confirmation. The Catholic community is very grateful to our Catholic schools for their ongoing efforts to teach the faith to our children, to form them as Catholics and to assist in their sacramental initiation".

If you wish a copy of the Norms or further information concerning them or policies regarding the celebration of the sacraments in the Archdiocese of Toronto, contact the Catholic Office of Religious Education: 416-934-0606, ext. 510, fax: 416-934-3444.

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What Immediate Sacramental Preparation in a Parish Might Look Like  

First Reconciliation

  1. Parent information meeting in the child's parish of worship. Registration in the child's parish of worship. Collection of baptismal certificates in the child's parish of worship. Six to eight weeks of catechesis, either by parents at home, using a parish resource or provided for a group by a catechist or catechists in the parish of worship. A family gathering or parish-centered activity (optional) in the parish of worship.

  2. Celebration of the sacrament in the parish of worship during an evening or on a Saturday (outside regular school hours).

First Eucharist

  1. Parent information meeting in the child's parish of worship. Catechetical session for parents in the parish of worship. Enrolment ceremony during a Sunday liturgy. Six to eight weeks of catechesis, either by parents at home, using a parish resource or provided for a group by a catechist or catechists in the parish of worship. Family gathering for parents and children in the parish of worship (optional).

  2. Celebration of the sacrament in the parish of worship during a regularly scheduled Sunday liturgy.


  1. Parent information meeting in the parish of worship. Registration. Collection of baptismal certificates by the parish of worship. Enrolment ceremony in the parish of worship. Four catechetical sessions (generally in the season of Lent-Easter) arranged by the parish of worship and two sessions after the celebration of the sacrament. Retreat day provided by the parish of worship.

  2. Celebration of the sacrament.

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The School's Role in Sacramental Preparation  


  1. Teach the Born of The Spirit programme relating to the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. This is the key instructional element in the students' preparation for these sacraments (Norms 5, 16). Witness to the children, by word and example, the meaning of Christian discipleship (Norm 5).

  2. Emphasize repeatedly with children and parents the importance of Sunday Eucharist and its connection with the other sacraments (Norms 5, 34).


  1. Meet with pastor or his delegate in May or June of the preceding school year to coordinate parish and school dates, in order to avoid conflicts for parents (Norms 7, 8, 11). Place notices from the parish(es) in your school newsletter regarding parish meetings etc. pertaining to preparation for all children regardless of where they attend school, as requested by the pastor(s). It may be necessary to do this for more than one parish if your students come from other parishes of worship (Norms 18, 20). Reinforce with parents that their child receives immediate preparation for the sacraments and celebrates the sacraments in his/her parish of worship (Norm 18). Stress, in word and action, to children and parents that the school and parish work closely together in the preparation for and celebration of the sacraments (Norm 7). Conduct the retreat for those preparing for Confirmation if there are special circumstances making it impossible for the parish to do this (Norm 28). Co-operate in making school facilities available for parish sessions if the parish does not have suitable facilities for these (Norm 8). Work especially closely with the parish in the preparation of special needs children. You are the experts! (Norm 16).

  2. Be involved in enrolment ceremonies, parent sessions and the celebration of the sacraments, as requested by the pastor (Norms 2,17, 22, 25, 26, 29, 30, 36, 39, 40).

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The Purpose of Sacramentals

The sanctification of:

1. Certain ministries of the Church
2. Certain states of life
3. A variety of circumstances of Christian life

The Elements of a Sacramental

1. There is always a prayer (see CCC #1672).

  • Blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) first of all: Some with a lasting importance, like consecrations of persons (such as abbots/abbesses, professed religious, and liturgical ministers), places (such as churches and shrines), and things (such as altars, oils, vessels, and vestments).

  • Exorcisms (see CCC#1673): Public, authoritative requests in Jesus' name that a person or object be protected against and/or withdrawn from the dominion of the power of the evil one.

2. There is often a specific sign such as

  • Laying on of hands · Sign of the cross
  • Sprinkling of holy water

Holy Oils

Used in the sacraments which impart a sacramental character (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders), in the Sacrament of Healing (Anointing of the Sick), and in the blessing of various objects. In 1970 it was allowed that, if necessary, holy oils may be from any plant, not only from olives. The blessing of oils has traditionally been done on Holy Thursday by a bishop at a cathedral. The supply distributed to local churches is kept in the ambry.


Used in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, as well as blessing tower bells and baptismal water and for consecrating churches, altars, chalices, and patens. Only chrism among the holy oils includes balsam, or balm, giving it an unmistakable fragrance, alluding to Paul's "odor of life" or "aroma of holiness" metaphor in 2 Corinthians 15-16.

Oil of Catechumens

Also known as the oil of the saints (O.S., Oleum Sanctorum), it is used during the prayer of exorcism and anointing when a catechumen is initiated.

Oil of the Sick

Used in the Anointing of the Sick.



Frankincense, boswellia carterii, is the main ingredient in the incense used in today's liturgies. A resin produced by a family of desert trees that grow in southern Arabia, it is derived from a sap that dries, forming crystalline lumps of an amber/gold color. For Christians, it has a rich prayer and purification symbolism. From earliest Christian days, it has been associated with Christ, beginning with the magi gift (Matthew 2:10-11). Even before that, the Jews regarded its rich spicy scent as a pure offering, pleasing to God. Even beyond Judeo-Christian circles, frankincense was prized for centuries in Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Rome not only as a way to honor the gods, but as a medicine and as a base for perfume.


Veneration is shown by incensing, as in the incensation of the altar, the book of the Gospels, the gifts of bread and wine, the assembly, and the body of the deceased during a funeral. Five grains of it can be deposited in the Paschal candle at the Easter Vigil, representing Christi's five wounds. The old blessing of incense included the prayer, "Be blessed by him in whose honor you will burn."


1. Its burning represents zeal and fervor.
2. Its fragrance represents virtue.
3. Its rising smoke represents acceptable prayer, as noted in Psalm 141:2.


The Christ (Paschal) candle
A prime Christ/Easter symbol, it remains lit from its enthronement during the Easter Vigil, throughout the Great Feast (the fifty days of Easter), until it is extinguished and transferred to the baptistry on Pentecost. Thereafter, it is used for its resurrection symbolism at Baptisms and funerals. Formerly, there was a "triple candle" used at the Easter Vigil, lit by the deacon chanting Lumen Christi (Latin: Light of Christ) while the choir answered Deo gratias (Thanks be to God). From this the Paschal candle was then lit.
Today the Paschal candle is lit directly from the new fire. It is still an optional part of the Easter Vigil to stress the Christ candle's dignity and significance by decorating it with a cross ("Christ yesterday and today / the beginning and the end"), the Greek alpha and omega, and the numerals of the current year ("All time belongs to him / and all the ages / to him be glory and power / through every age for ever. Amen"), and then inserting five grains of incense in the cross ("By his holy / and glorious wounds / may Christ our Lord / guard us / and keep us. Amen").

Baptism Candles

Their lighting (from the Christ candle) and presentation are part of Christian initiation, with the exhortation to keep the flame of faith burning brightly. One custom is to light one's baptismal candle each year on the anniversary of one's baptism.

Sanctuary candle
This sanctuary lamp or light signals the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Altar candles
Express "devotion or the degree of festivity" according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, on or around the altar (formerly, at least 51 percent beeswax).

Vigil lights
Candles are common in church; associated with a donation. Representing the prayerful vigilance of expectant faith, they are often either the large, six-day bottle candle or a smaller version in an often red, blue, or amber votive cup.

Blessed candles
Often blessed on Candlemas Day, candles for home use borrow symbolism from all the candles used in church and liturgy and bring it into the domestic Church of the home. Faith in things unseen can be bolstered by things seen - such as a burning candle. Especially during a storm (including those within), forgetfulness of the guardian threatens heart and home. And so popular piety would light a candle - blessed at Candlemas, of course - for protection, it not from the storm, then at least from the thunder and lightning of fear itself.
Several centuries ago in Ireland, during the suppression of Catholicism by the English persecution, priests were driven to visiting homes in secret, where the Eucharist could be celebrated at night. At Christmas time, the Catholic families would leave their doors unlocked and put candles in the windows to guide priests to their homes. Any soldiers noticing the open doors and lit candles were simply told that it was to welcome Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve. The signal remained, as the soldiers dismissed the story as harmless superstition.

Received and used on Palm Sunday as a prayerful reminder of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his death and resurrection. After Palm Sunday, it has become tradition to display the palms, often in some artistic form (braided, woven, crosswise), often with a crucifix or sacred picture. For the following Ash Wednesday they may be burned, with the ashes then used for the beginning of Lent.

Used principally for Ash Wednesday markings, the consecration of an altar, and the dedication of a church.

A cross bearing the figure of the crucified Christ (corpus). The sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist, "the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary", is emphasized where the crucifix is prominent above the altar.

To commemorate, memorialize, and inspire; typically of or about the Lord, the Blessed Mother, or other saints.

Holy Water
"Water which is blessed by a priest and used by the clergy as a sacramental for blessings, the Rite of Sprinkling at Sunday Mass, and for baptismal renewal (by dipping one's fingers in the holy water and making the sign of the cross) upon entering a church. Besides ordinary holy water, there are also baptismal holy water (used with chrism in the administration of baptism) and Easter water, which is blessed for use in the paschal season.


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