Aquinas and the Sacraments

St. Thomas Aquinas's view of the Sacraments can be found through the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa contra Gentiles and Summa Theologica. As can be seen, Aquinas relied heavily on Scriptural passages, as well as the writings of various Church Fathers. St. Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x): The visible sacrifice is the sacrament. This is the sacred sign of the invisible sacrifice. A thing is called a sacrament, either by having a certain hidden sanctity, and in this sense a sacrament is a sacred secret; or from having some relationship to this sanctity. A sacrament is a sign. Moreover, it is a sacred sign. Divine Wisdom provides for each thing according to its mode. Wisdom 7,1 : "she... ordered all things sweetly"; and from Matthew 25,15: "[she] gave to everyone according to his proper ability." It is a part of human nature to acquire knowledge of the intelligible from the sensible. A sign is the way one obtains knowledge of something else. The sacraments are the signs by which humans gain knowledge of spiritual and intelligible goods. Ephesians 5, 25-26: "Christ loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life." St. Augustine says (Tract. xxx in John): "The word is added to the element, and this becomes the sacrament." Augustine (Contra Faust xix): "It is impossible to keep men together in one religious denomination, whether true or false, except they be united by means of visible signs or sacraments." It is necessary for salvation that humans united together in the name of true religion. Therefore, sacraments are necessary for man's salvation. There are three reasons sacraments are necessary to the salvation of humans: First, it is in the nature of humans to be led by things corporal and sensible to things that are spiritual and intelligible. Second, by sinning, humans have subjected themselves to corporeal things. Therefore, it is proper that the remedy have a corporeal side, leading to the spiritual. Third, humans are prone to direct their activity towards material things (things that can be seen and felt). Sacraments are made necessary because humans have sinned. The main effect of the sacraments is grace, in particular those involving Virtues and Gifts. Grace perfects the soul and allow participation in the Divine Nature. Furthermore, the effects of the sacraments is justification. This is an interior effect. Romans 8,33: "God justifies." Therefore, the effects of the sacraments is justification. This is an interior effect. The power of the sacraments is from God, alone. It does not matter that the minister of the sacraments may be a sinner, or evil. Augustine (commenting on John 1,33): "He upon Whom you shall see the Spirit, ...that John did not know that our Lord, having the authority of baptizing, would keep it to Himself, but that the ministry would certainly pass to both good and evil men...What is a bad minister to you, wherever the Lord is good?"

What are the Sacraments?

There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick), Holy Orders, Matrimony. From Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. iii): "No one receives hierarchical perfection save by the most God-like Eucharist." Therefore, the Holy Eucharist is the greatest of the sacraments. This is because it is the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ. It perfects the other sacraments. From Summa Contra Gentiles Book 4, Chapter 58: The spiritual remedies of salvation have been given to men under sensible signs. In bodily life we find a twofold order: 1.) For some propagate and order the bodily life in others. 2.) Some are propagated and ordered in the bodily life. In a bodily life three things are necessary of themselves, and a fourth is incidental. 1.) Generation by birth. 2.) Growth to arrive at due size and strength. 3.) Nourishment is necessary. These three are assigned to the vegetative soul. 4.) Healing of the sick living thing. These are mirrored in the spiritual life of the sacraments. 1.) Baptism: spiritual generation. 2.) Confirmation: spiritual growth. 3.) Eucharist: spiritual nourishment. 4.) Penance and Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick): spiritual healing.


The sacrament of Baptism has the outward sign of a washing. "He that washes himself (baptuzatur) after touching the dead, if he touched them again, what does his washing avail?" (Sirach 34,30). The sacrament does not come from the water, but from the act of pouring the water, in the form of a washing. (St. Hugh of Victor held that the water was the sacrament, but this is in error.) The outward reality is in the washing with water, while the sacramental sign is the inward justification: this is the reality, or inward reality of the sacrament. The inward reality is a seal and a safeguarding. Dionysius defined Baptism by its relation to the other sacraments (Eccl. Hier.ii) that it is the principle that forms the habits of the soul for the reception of those most holy words and sacraments; by its relation to heavenly glory, which is the universal end of all sacraments, preparing the way for us, whereby we mount to the repose of the heavenly kingdom, conferring on us our most sacred and Godlike regeneration. The power of Baptism was initiated when Christ was Baptized, and not during the passion. The proper way to Baptize is "I Baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." This comes from Matthew 28,19: "Going .... teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Ephesians 5,26: "Cleansing the world by the cleaning laver of the water." Augustine says (De Unico Baptismo iv) that Baptism is consecrated by the words of the Gospel. Full immersion in water is not necessary. It is symbolic of the inward cleansing of the sin. Hebrews 10.22: "Let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water." Ezekiel 36:25: "25Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." Baptism cannot be reiterated. Ephesians 4, 5: "One Faith, one Baptism." Baptism is a spiritual rebirth. John 3,5: "Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." John 3,4: "A man cannot re-enter the womb." Therefore, he cannot be re-Baptized. (cf. Romans 4, 3-4) Because we are baptized in Christ's death, by which we die to sin and rise again into a newness of life. Now, Christ died once. Baptism imprints a character which is indelible. Baptism is the principle remedy against original sin. Romans 5,18: " by the offense of one, unto all men to condemnation, so also by the justice of one, all men are justified of life." There are three kinds of Baptism: Baptism of water, of Blood (Martyrdom) and of the Spirit (Baptism of Desire). Hebrews 4,2: "[Of baptism) He uses the plural, because there is Baptism of Water, of Repentance and of Blood." Isaiah 4, 4: "The Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall wash away the blood of Jerusalem, out of the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." Augustine (De Unico Baptismo Parvulrum, iv): "The Blessed Cyprian argues with considerable reason from the thief to whom, though not baptized, it was said, 'Today you shall be with Me in Paradise', that suffering can take the place of Baptism. Having weighed this again and again, I perceive that not only can suffering for the name of Christ supply what is lacking in Baptism, but even faith and conversion of heart, if perchance on account of stress of the times the celebration of the mystery of Baptism is not practicable." Priests are the proper ministers to perform Baptism. Isidore (of Spain) says priests are the only ministers who can perform Baptism. However, even Isidore and Pope Gelasius I say that it is often permissible for Christian laymen to baptize in cases of urgency. Women can baptize. This was approved by Pope Urban II and from Colossians 3: "In Christ there is neither male nor female.: Isidore indicates that even a person who is not baptized may baptize, since it is the Holy Spirit Who performs the mystery of the Baptism. Augustine never answered this question. But the Church has long since determined that Jews and non-baptized heretics can baptize. It is possible to be saved even without Baptism of Water, if the person has the proper desire, and has no contempt for the Sacrament. Baptism should not be delayed. Sirach 5, 8: "Delay not to be converted to the Lord and defer it not from day to day." Children of heretics and Jews should not be baptized against the will of their parents. (See Thought of Thomas Aquinas for a detailed discussion.) It is beneficial to baptize imbeciles and madmen. Baptism opens the gates of heaven to sinners. Luke 3,21: "Heaven was opened." The gloss of Bede "We see here the power of Baptism; from which when a man comes forth, the gates of the heavenly kingdom are opened to him." Baptism has an equal effect on all. Ephesians 4, 5: "One Faith, One Baptism." After one has reached the age of reason, it is necessary to receive the Baptism with sincerity. If the Sacrament is received in bad faith, then one has a change of heart, the effects of Baptism are salutory (Augustine). From Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapter 59: Bede: "Baptism opens the gates of heaven." A spiritual generation is needed only once, hence baptism is given only once. The sin of Adam makes a man guilty only once. Baptism is chiefly directed at this infection. This excludes the errors of the Donatists or the Rebaptizers (Augustine).


From Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapter 60: The perfection of spiritual strength consists in a man's daring to confess the faith of Christ in the presence of everyone. This is done without error or confusion. Spiritual strength drives out inordinate terror. This is the sacrament of Confirmation. One becomes a front line fighter for the faith of Christ. Warriors carry the insignia of their master. So it is with the confirmed: they carry the sign of Christ. The signing takes place with a mixture of oil and balm which is called chrism, and not without reason. This designated the power of the Holy Spirit. They are called anointed (Psalm 44,8; Luke 4,18). They are called Christians Acts 9,26). This is because they are warriors under Christ. The balm gives a pleasing fragrance, which indicates one of good public repute. These are called forth from the recesses of the Church to the field of battle. This sacrament is conferred only by bishops. These are enrolled in the spiritual military forces. Manliness is derived from Christ. (Comment: This is a particularly militant statement by Aquinas, something that is not uncommon in Summa Contra Gentiles. The statement in Summa Theologica is more refined. See infra. AEF)

From Summa Theologica: Concerning the institution of this sacrament there are three opinions. Alexander of Hales (Summa Theol. PIV, Q IX) and St. Bonaventure (IV, Sent. vii) have maintained that this sacrament was instituted neither by Christ, nor by the apostles; but later in the course of time by one of the councils. Pierre de Tarantaise (IV Sent. vii) held that it was instituted by the apostles. But this cannot be admitted. A Sacrament belongs to the power of excellence, which belongs to Christ alone. Therefore, we must say that Christ instituted this sacrament not by bestowing, but by promising it according to John 16, 7: "If I don't leave, the Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you." Confirmation is the sacrament of the fullness of grace. John 7,39: "As yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Chrism is a fitting natter for the Sacrament. Sirach 24, 21: "My odor is as the purest balm." The proper form of the Sacrament is: "I sign you with the sign of the cross, etc." This is within the authority of the Church to prescribe. It is proper to call the chrism either the oil of salvation or the oil of sanctification. Confirmation confirms a character. It is in the form of a consecration and cannot be repeated, once it is administered. The character of Confirmation is the gift of the Paraclete, as promised by scripture. It is given to the baptized to publish the faith, as strengthened by the Holy Spirit. This is similar to what occurred with the Apostles on Pentecost, and reiterates the sanctifying grace with the Apostles received from the Paraclete. Those who say the Sacrament should not be given are in error, because the "works of God are perfect" (Deuteronomy 32, 4). The sanctifying grace of Confirmation tends to make strong and perfect the faith of the person. Hugh of St. Victor (De Sacram. ii) "It would be altogether hazardous, if anyone happened to go forth from this life without being Confirmed."

The Holy Eucharist

From Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapters 61 to 69: Life needs material nourishment to increase in quantity and to maintain the body. Spiritual effects are given under the likeness of things that are visible, hence are given the appearance of things men commonly use for bodily nourishment. These are bread and wine. He who begets is joined to the begotten in a way. The nourished and the nourishment are joined. It is the spiritual mystery that unites the Eucharist to us. John 6, 56: "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." John 6, 61: "This saying is hard, and who can bear it?" So it is with the heretics who put themselves at odds with the teaching of the Church. Matthew 26,26 "This is my body." It should be noted that He did not say, "This is a sign or representation of my body." Yet some heretics disclaim the truth of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. To some, it appears scandalous to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ. John 6, 64: "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life." A thing begins to be where it was not before in two ways: 1.) by local motion; 2.) Conversion of something into itself. Manifestly, the body of Christ ascended into heaven, hence cannot be always on the altar. It does not seem possible to some there is a new conversion of another into itself on the altar. In a similar manner, a thing cannot be moved from one place to another without ceasing to be in the original place. Therefore, it seems to some that Christ must cease to be in heaven when He is on the altar. It seems impossible to some that the large body of a man could be contained in the host used in the Eucharist. It is also hard to understand how the body of Christ can be present simultaneously, on many altars at once. Another stumbling block is the appearance of the bread and wine. The accidents of color, taste, figure, etc. remain. Aristotle "The being of an accident is by inheritance." Another problem occurs from the fact that the action and passion of the bread and wine are unchanged after the consecration. Another problem occurs in the breaking of the bread, for it seems to some that the fragment of the bread cannot contain the whole body. This would be as if a man lost an arm or leg, his whole being would be contained in the portion. It is true that the teachings of the Church about the Eucharist are difficult. Divine power operates in this sacrament with great secrecy and sublimity. It is beyond the ability of man to search it out. The conversion occurs by a divine mode, and is not natural (in the way we understand it) in any way. Air can be converted to fire. This is called a formal conversion. But in the conversion of the Eucharist, a subject passes over into a subject without a change in the accidents. This is called "substantial". It was wise of Christ to assume the form of bread and wine, since it would be horrible for the believers to consume a real human body and blood. Furthermore, it would be an abomination for those watching to observe such a thing. There is a real conversion which takes place: "This is My Body...This is My Blood." His body is contained in the bread by the force of conversion, while the blood is a natural accompaniment. Under the appearance of wine, the converse is true. The body of Christ is not related to place, with its own dimensions as a medium. In the body of Christ, His own dimensions exist in one place only, but through the mediation of the dimensions of the bread passing into its places are as many as there are places in which this sort of conversion is celebrated. It is not divided into parts, but is entire in every single one. Every consecrated bread is converted into the entire Body of Christ. The Body and Blood of Christ is not affected by the accidents of the bread and wine. It is not impossible that divine power can affect the subject without changing the nature of the accidents. In this sacrament He conserves the accident while changing the substance. According to Aristotle. the Platonists held that this was not possible. But it is clear that God can do more in operation that the intellect of man can comprehend. The Body and Blood are contained under the appearance. Aristotle: "Position is the order of parts of the whole... quantity is that which has position... with the quantity gone, all substance is indivisible." Since we hold that in this sacrament the measurements subsist of themselves and that the other accidents are foinded on these as on a subject, we need not say that accidents of this kind are not individuated; for there persists in the measurements themselves are the root of individuation. In this sacrament, the accidents of the bread and wine persists. Concerning passions (such as those which take place in the alterations of accidents of this kind), the difficulty is not hard to understand if the premises are granted. The difficulty occurs regarding the generation and corruption which seems to take place in this sacrament. If enough quantity of this sacrament were to be consumed, one could be nourished, and even made drunk. I Corinthians 11,21: "One indeed is hungry and another is drunk." It is amazing that some would claim that the bread and wine could not be converted into the body and blood of Christ, when we know that by putrefaction and combustion, this same bread is converted to dust and ashes. However, the substance of a thing should not be confused with the accidents. Combustion and putrefaction are not miracles, but the normal order of nature. The conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is miraculous. The final difficulty is that whereby every portion of the bread contains the while Christ. we should not seek the solutions in terms of mediating dimensions. For every drop of water contains the nature and species of water. The whole soul is in every part of the body. Therefore, the breaking of the bread does not affect the dimensions of the whole body of Christ. Ultimately, the Eucharist should be viewed from this standpoint: nothing is impossible for God Who can do all things. John 6, 64: "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." We are to take this that there are certain spiritual foods given to us that are quite apart from earthly carnal foods. One properly calls wine the liquid expressed from grapes. We call bread that which is made from garin wheat. If an admixture is introduced, the nature of the bread or wine can be lost. It is not essential whether the bread be leavened or unleavened. St. Gregory "the Roman Church offers unleavened bread because our Lord took on flesh without any admixture. But the rest of the Churches offer leavened bread, since the Word of God was clothed with flesh, and is true God and true man, just as the leavened bread is mixed with paste." Still, it is in greater harmony with the truth to use unleavened bread. I Corinthians 5, 7-8: "Christ our pasch is sacrificed. Therefore, let us feast... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." There are certain Greek heretics who say that the sacrament cannot be offered with unleavened bread. However, in Matthew 26,17; Mark 14,12; Luke 22,7, it is indicated that Christ performed the first Eucharist with unleavened bread. Furthermore, it is clear that the use of unleavened bread is required by the Old Law (Exodus 12,15). The Greek arguments against the Latin Church for using unleavened bread are not based on scriptural interpretation. Some use I Corinthians 11,23 and John 18,28 to indicate that leavened bread was used in the first pasch. However, the Old Law was observed, and it is clear that unleavened bread would have been used at the Last Supper. All the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) indicate that the pasch was celebrated in accordance with the Old law. It is clear that the Latin Church is reasonable in the use of unleavened bread.

From Summa Theologica. The Church's sacraments are ordained for helping man in the spiritual life. But the spiritual life is analogous to the corporeal, since corporeal things bear a resemblance to spiritual. There is only one sacrament in the Eucharist. I Corinthians 10,17 "For we, being many, are one bread one body, all that partake of one bread." It is clear that the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church's unity. This is to say that, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation, and can be obtained by desire, so can the Eucharist be obtained by desire. Baptism is the beginning of spiritual life. Baptism ordains a man for the reception of the Eucharist, which nourishes the spiritual life. Augustine explaining John 6, 54: "This food and this drink, namely, of His flesh and blood: He would have us understand the fellowship of His body and members, which is the Church in His predestinated, and called, and justified, and glorified, His body and believing ones. No one should entertain the slightest doubt, that then every one of this faithful becomes a partaker of the body and blood of Christ, when in Baptism he is made a member of Christ's body, nor is he deprived of his share in that body and chalice even though he depart from this world in the unity of Christ's body before he eats that bread and drinks that chalice." Damascene says that it is called Communion because we communicate with Christ through it, both because we partake of His flesh and Godhead, and because we communicate with and are united to one another through it. It is called the Eucharist because it is the "good grace" because it leads to the grace of God everlasting (Romans 4,23); or because it really contains Christ, Who is full of grace. The sacrament was instituted by Christ, of Whom it is said (Mark 7,37) that He did all things well. Eusebius says "Since He was going to withdraw His assumed body from their eyes, and bear it away to the stars, it was needful that on the day of the supper He should consecrate the sacrament of His body and blood for our sakes, in order that what was once offered up for our ransom should be fittingly worshiped in a mystery." Without faith in the Passion there could never be any salvation. Romans 3, 25: "Whom God has proposed to be propitiation, through faith in His blood." The chief sacrament of the Old Law was the Paschal Lamb. I Corinthians 5, 7: "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed." Augustine (Respons. ad januar, i) "In order to commend more earnestly the depth of this mystery, our Savior willed this last act to be fixed in the hearts and memories of the disciples whom He was about to quit for the Passion." And I Corinthians 5, 7-8: "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed; therefore let us feast.. with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Wheat is the appropriate matter for the bread of the host. John 12,24: "Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it remains alone." Therefore, Christ has compared Himself to the grain of wheat. The presence of Christ's true body and blood in this sacrament cannot be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon the Divine authority. Luke 22,19: "This is My Body, which shall be delivered up for you." Cyril says "Doubt not whether this is true; but take rather the Savior's words with faith; for since He is the Truth and He does not lie."

The consecration occurs when the priest states the words, "This is My Body; this is My Blood." But when the priest says this, it is Jesus Christ Who is saying it. Ambrose (De Sacram. iv) "The consecration is accomplished by the words and expressions of the Lord Jesus. Because, by all the other words spoken, praise is rendered to God, prayer is put up for the people, for kings and others; but when the tome comes for perfecting the sacrament, the priest no longer uses his own words, but the words of Christ. Therefore, it is Christ's words that perfect this sacrament." Furthermore, for those who doubt the validity of these words, and who doubt that God could or would do this, Ambrose adds: "If there be such might in the word of the Lord Jesus that things non-existent came into being, how much more efficacious is it to make things existing to continue, and to be changed into something new? And so, what was the bread before the consecration is now the body of Christ after consecration, because Christ's word changes a creature into something different." This is because Jesus Christ is the Word of God, which caused all creation to come into being.

Penance, Confession (Reconciliation)

The following is condensed from Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapters 70-72. Although grace is bestowed upon men by the sacraments, they are not rendered incapable of sin. He who receives the gratuitous gifts of grace, can still sin by acting against grace. Aristotle "every evil man is ignorant." Proverbs 14,22: "They err that work evil." Hebrews 12,15: "Looking diligently, lest any man be wanting to the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up to hinder." Ephesians 4, 30: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby you are sealed." I Corinthians 9.27: "I chastise my body and bring into subjection, lest perhaps when I preached to others, I myself should become a castaway." This does away with the belief of some heretics that say that after a man has received the grace of the Spirit, is unable to sin, and that if he sins, he never had the grace of the Holy Spirit. In this, they used to following to support their position: I Corinthians 13, *: "Charity never falls away." John 3, 6-9: "Whoever abides in Him sins not, and whosoever sins has not seen Him nor known Him." This is rebutted by the following: Apocalypse 2, 4: "I have somewhat against you because you have your first charity." I Corinthians 1, 8-10: "Shall be made void... when that which is perfect is come." It is then that a perfect state of charity shall abide. As long as a man lives with grace granted him, he will not sin. If he turns from that grace, he will sin. (Note: This is an interesting doctrine of some fundamentalist churches that was taught in Aquinas' time, and it is taught today: "he that has been baptized in the Spirit cannot sin, and he who sins never had the Spirit." Of course, the doctrine is considered false by the Catholic Church. It completely ignores both our concupiscent nature (which is not abrogated with baptism) and free will, which is not necessarily changed, at least immediately, by the action of the sacrament. AEF) As long as we are alive, the will is mutable toward good or evil. Good is more powerful than evil. I Corinthians 6,9-11: "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, shall possess the Kingdom of God. And such of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you were justified in the name of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God." Grace and the sacrament increases nature's good. If sin takes place after grace is received, we can still be led back to a state of justice. Despair is an invitation to sinfulness. Ephesians 4,19: "Despairing have given themselves up to lasciviousness, unto the working of all uncleanness, unto covetousness." Despair is a dangerous cesspool leading men to vices. I John 2, 1-2: "My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just. And He is the propitiation for our sins." II Corinthians 2, 6-7, 7-9: "[To the Corinthian fornicator] To him who is such a one, this rebuke is sufficient which is given by many: so that on the contrary you should rather forgive him and comfort him... I am glad: not because you were made sorrowful, but because you were made sorrowful unto penance." Jeremiah 3,1: "You have prostituted yourself to many lovers; nevertheless, return to Me, says the Lord." Lamentations 5, 21: "Convert us, O Lord, and we shall be converted; renew our days, as from the beginning." In this way one excludes the error of the Novatians who were wont to deny forgiveness to those who had sinned after Baptism. They used the following to justify their error: Hebrews 6, 4-5: "It is impossible for those who were once illuminated, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, have moreover tasted the good of God, and the powers of the world to come, and are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance." However, these overlooked the passage which followed: "Crucify again themselves the Son of God and of Him a mockery." Therefore, to be renewed, one must be again crucified with the penance of Christ. Romans 6, 3: "All we who were baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His death." Titus 3, 5: "According to His mercy, He has saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Spirit." If a man sins after baptism, he cannot have baptism as a remedy. Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration cannot be given a second time. When a person is healed by something given to him by a doctor, it is the healing power within him that heals him. The spiritual health in the sacrament of penance is both internal and external. Sins come from disordering of the mind. This is the first damage. The second is that there is the guilt of punishment. The third damage is the weakening of the general good, whereby a person is rendered more likely to sin again. The first thing required is a proper ordering of the mind. This cannot be achieved without the physician of the soul, Jesus Christ. Matthew 1, 21: "[Jesus Christ] Who shall save his people from their sins." I Peter 1, 3: "[Christ] regenerated us unto a lively hope." It is turning the mind to God with a complete hatred of the sin that there is a remission of the sin and a wiping out of the fault. However, there sometimes remains a fault. The second part of the remission of sin in confession, is the actual confession itself. This is the verbal communication of the sin to the minister of Christ. Matthew 16, 19: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Confession, like baptism, may be excluded by necessity, but no contempt in exigent circumstances Augustine. Acts 4, 10-12: "There is no other name given to men whereby we must be saved except by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is in this way that one avoids the error of Peter Lombard who said that confession was not necessary. Satisfaction is the third part of penance. It is evident that not every priest can absolve every man from every sin. He can only do this when he has received the power to do so. (Note: Peter Lombard was a prominent Scholastic in the Parisian scene in the late 12th century. AEF)

Extreme Unction (Blessing of the Sick)

The following is condensed from Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapter 73. The body is the instrument of the soul, and the instrument is for the use of the principal agent. Hence, the body is disposed to be in harmony with the soul. therefore, infirmity of the soul sometimes flows from the body, causing infirmity as well. Also, bodily infirmity can sometimes hinder spiritual health. Therefore, it was proper to employ a spiritual medicine against sin. James 5, 14-15: "Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of the faith shall heal the sick man." There is no guarantee that even is a man healed from his bodily infirmity, that he will necessarily be forgiven the infirmity of the soul. Also, some who do not recover, physically, may enjoy great spiritual restoration from the sacrament. James adds: "And the Lord shall raise him up... if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven." Now it frequently occurs that a man in a state of illness has no recollection of the sins he has committed, and never confessed, nor performed penance for remission. It is impossible for one to lead a daily life without committing some form of sin. This sacrament should serve to cleanse these sins. This sacrament does not confer a consecration as occurs in Baptism or Confirmation. Still, the sacrament should not be administered to one who is healthy, but rather reserved for the sick, since it has the external appearance of a medicine, or a medicinal rite. The oils should be applied to the sources of the sins, namely the organs of the senses and the hands and the feet, by which the works of sin are carried out. Some engage in anointing the loins, since these are a source of sin. There is nothing incorrect in this practice. Since no sin is forgiven, except by grace, it is clear that grace is conferred in this sacrament. Dionysius: "It is proper for priests to confer this sacrament." This is because the sacrament confers enlightening grace, and the order of priests tends to enlightenment. However, the sacrament does not require a bishop. The effect of the sacrament can be blocked by a pretense in the receiver. In this way, it is no different from any other sacrament.

Holy Orders

The following is condensed from Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapters 74-77. According to Dionysius, all the sacraments confer a spiritual grace. This is a correct assessment. The sacraments are conferred by visible men, who employ visual methods, to dispense invisible grace. Hebrews 5, 1: "Every high priest taken taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God." Ephesians 5, 25-26: "Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it: that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life." I Corinthians 4, 1: "Let no man so account of us as ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God." Luke 22, 19: "Do this in commemoration of Me." John 20, 23: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them." The same instructions are given concerning teaching and baptizing. Matthew 28, 19: "Going, therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them." II Corinthians 13, 10: "The power which the Lord has given me unto edification and not into destruction." St. Paul says this power is "for building up the Church." Mark 13, 27: "What I say to you, I say to all." Matthew 28, 20: "Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." The conferring of spiritual power is the province of the divine liberality. This is the sacrament of Holy Orders. The power of orders as a sacrament is established for the dispensation of the sacraments. Aristotle: "Everything is denominated from its end." The power of orders must extend itself to the remission of sins by the dispensation of the sacraments which are ordered to the remission of sins: baptism and penance (confession, reconciliation). The powers of orders is also toward the Eucharist. This is the meaning of the "keys to the Kingdom." Matthew 15, 19: "I will give to you the keys to the Kingdom." The lowest orders serves the priestly order. These are doorkeepers who let the faithful in, and keep the unfaithful out. Acolytes help prepare the sacred vessels. Others prepare the people in the consummation of the sacrament. The three orders - the priesthood, the diaconate, and the subdiaconate are called sacred orders because they receive a ministry in something sacred. There is a superior power within the Church which has a ministry of dispensing the sacrament of orders. Church unity requires that all the faithful agree as to the faith. In matters of faith, questions are bound to arise. The unity of the Church demands that there is a single head of the Church. This single head of the Church provides one voice to answer these questions. Isaiah 5, 4: "What is there that I ought to do more to My vineyard that I have not done to it?" It is a mistake to doubt that there is a single head of the Church. Proverbs 8, 15: "Kings reign, and lawmakers decree just things." the best government is one ruled by one. The Church is a militant Church. Apocalypse 21, 2: "Jerusalem is coming down from heaven." Exodus 25, 10; 26, 30: "[Moses was told to make everything] according to the pattern I have shown you on the mountain." Apocalypse 21, 3: "They shall be His people and God Himself with them shall be their God." In the militant Church, there must be one who presides over the things universally. Osee 1, 11: "The children of Juda and the children of Israel shall be gathered together; and they shall appoint themselves a head." John 10, 16: "There shall be one fold and one shepherd." John 21, 17:"Feed My sheep." Luke 22, 32: "You being once converted confirm your brethren." Matthew 16, 19: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Isaiah 9, 7: "He shall sit upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom to establish and strengthen it with judgment and with justice from henceforth and forever." Matthew 28, 20: "Behold I am with all days even to the consummation of the world." By this is excluded all those who partake of the presumptuous error of saying that the Roman Pontiff is not the true successor of the rule of Peter. It is in the nature of a consecration that it is persistent and lasts forever. Nothing consecrated can be consecrated a second time. A man is called good or bad in accord with the vice or virtue. In this way, there is a habit of a sort. Habit differs from power. By power, we are able to do something. By a habit we are not rendered able or unable to make something, but ready or unready in doing well or badly what we are able to do. Habit neither gives ability nor removes it. John 1, 33: "He it is that baptizes." The minister is an animate tool. Jeremiah 7, 5: "Cursed be the man that trusts in man." Matthew 23, 2-3: "The Scribes and Pharisees have sat on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, whatsoever they do you, observe and do. But according to their works, do you not." This dispenses of the error of those who say that only good men can dispense sacraments, while evil ones cannot.


The following is condensed from Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapter 78. So far as generation is ordered to a political good, it is subject to the ordering of civil law. Insofar as it is ordered to the good of the Church, it must be subject to the government of the Church. Matrimony consists of the union of a man and a woman purposing to generate and educate offspring for the worship of God. It is a sacrament of the Church.

Hence there is a certain blessing on those marrying that is given by the ministers of the Church. Ephesians 5, 32: "This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and the Church." The union of a man and a woman mirrors the union of Christ and the Church. Canticles 6, 8: "one is My dove, My perfect one." Matthew 28, 20: "Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." I Thessalonians 4, 16: "We shall always be with the Lord." There are three goods [ends or aims] of matrimony as a sacrament of the Church:

  1. Offspring accepted and educated for the worship of God
  2. Fidelity by which one man is bound to one woman
  3. The sacrament by which there is an indivisibility of the union insofar as the sacrament is the union of Christ and the Church.


  • "Summa Contra Gentiles" by St. Thomas Aquinas
  • "Summa Theologica" by St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Liam G. Walsh OP (1988), The Sacraments of Christian Initiation. Baptism, Confiramtion, Eucharist. London: Geoffrey Chapman, ISBN 0 225 66499 2, pp. 317.

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