As mentioned, the seven sacraments are divided into three subgroups: initiation, healing, and communion/service. Going in the order of the Catechism, we will start with baptism.
The very first Sacrament any Christian (let alone Catholics) should experience is that of Baptism. Baptism is "the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments" (CCC 1213).Catholicism recalls various biblical events as signs of baptism:the great flood in Genesis, the Hebrews’ liberation from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and the Hebrews crossing the Jordan River into the land God promised them.All this culminates and climaxes into Jesus’ baptism by St. John the Baptist, which is “a manifestation of his self-emptying” (CCC 1224).
In Catholicism and various Protestant denominations, Baptism is typically practiced at infancy. The rationale for infant baptism is that most parents want what’s best for their child, and what is greater than the grace the baptismal waters offer?Also, it is entirely plausible that when households were baptized as recorded in Acts, infants were included if any were present.“The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth” (CCC 1250).Some may question that this hinders with free will, yet as children we did as our parents modeled and said because of their wisdom and experience and because we respected them.
Adults becoming Christians through the Catholic Church go through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).Typically, the catechumens begin this process in the fall and leads to their baptism and full initiation into the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass, which includes all three initiation sacraments (the latter two will be discussed later).For “separated brothers and sisters” (i.e. Christian non-Catholics), baptism is recognized by the Church if done using the Trinitarian formula (In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit) and water.The full liturgy can be found in CCC 1234-1245.
The Church teaches that “by Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin” (CCC 1263).However, we must continue to live with the consequences of our sinful actions along with what is called concupiscence.This is essentially the propensity or ability for us to sin, or metaphorically, “the timber of sin” (CCC 1264).We still carry that ability to sin, but through God’s grace we can resist it.
We all become “new creations” in baptism, receiving sanctifying grace (CCC 1265, 1266), and we become members of the Body of Christ, incorporated into the Church (CCC 1267).“Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church” (CCC 1271).Through baptism, we all find unity as brothers and sisters in Christ.