Seven sacraments form the framework of Catholic spirituality. In a sacrament, Jesus himself acts in and through the ritual, offering new life, forgiving sins, giving his own body and blood, healing, uniting, consecrating. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the transforming grace of Christ’s actions is poured into the hearts of those participating. So a sacrament does more than just symbolize spiritual reality—it actually makes that spiritual reality present at the place and time the sacrament is celebrated. One term used to describe this reality is efficacious—the sacraments effect change in us and in the world because of God’s power, not our own.
Just participating in a sacrament doesn’t mean you will be changed. You must be prepared for an actively participate in the sacraments if the grace given by God in them is to have an effect in your life. This inner attitude and readiness on our part is called our disposition.
With this in mind, we can now understand the definition of sacraments provided by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1131):
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and
entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The
visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make
present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those
who receive them with the required dispositions.
Grace is a word that is frequently associated with the sacraments. Grace is the religious name we give to the free and undeserved gifts we receive from God. Grace is the experience we have of being loved as a child of God. The love we receive, in all its various forms, empowers us to live lives of love ourselves, in service to God and others.
The seven sacraments are divided into three groups. The first group is sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. The second group is sacraments of service: Matrimony and Holy Orders. And finally, the third group is sacraments of healing: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. These seven sacraments are the heart of the Catholic community.
Taken from The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth by Saint Mary’s Press