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63. The Effects of the Sacraments

1. A character is a lasting mark, set as a seal and adistinctive sign upon a person. Now, a sacrament is capable ofimprinting a character upon the Christian soul, marking itpermanently as dedicated to the worship of God. In a somewhatsimilar way, the uniform and insignia of a soldier is an abidingmark and indication of his allegiance, his rank, and his specialduty.

2. But the character imprinted or impressed by a sacramentmust be a spiritual thing, for it is a mark or seal set on thesoul. It must, therefore, be one of the three things which aspiritual soul can have; that is, passion, habit, or power. It isnot a passion, for a passion is not lasting; it passes quickly,whereas a character has permanence. Nor is the character a habit.It is a spiritual power.

3. The sacramental character is the character or mark ofChrist. It is, in some way, a participation in Christ's eternalpriesthood. It comes to the soul from Christ himself.

4. A character impressed by a sacrament of theNew Law marks the Christian soul as the receiver or the bestower ofthings belonging to the worship of God. Now, the worship of Godinvolves actions which come from the powers of the soul. Hence, thesacramental character has as its subject (that is, its seat,location) the powers of the soul, not the essenceof the soul as such.

5. Every sanctification wrought by the priesthood ofChrist is perpetual. Therefore, a character impressed by asacrament (a character which is, in some sense, a participation inChrist's priesthood), is everlasting. It cannot be obliteratedfrom the soul. It is an indelible mark and seal.

6. Not every sacrament of the New Law imprints anindelible character on the soul. Such a character is impressed bythose sacraments which are ordained for divine worship and whichgive a person power to receive or confer other sacraments.Baptism empowers a person to receive other sacraments.Confirmation (as we shall see later) has something of thissame purpose. Holy order empowers the receiver to confer sacramentson others. Therefore, these three sacraments (baptism,confirmation, holy order), imprint, respectively, a character onthe soul. A property of these sacraments is that they can bereceived only once by the same person. Their respective charactersnever fade or admit of renewal.

"For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?"
Thomas á Kempis

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"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it."
St Philip Neri

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