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65. The Number of Sacraments

1. There are seven sacraments of the New Law. Man hasseven bodily requirements, and, since the bodily life has a certainconformity with the spiritual life, we discern seven spiritualneeds corresponding to those of the body. The seven sacramentsanswer these seven requirements of the soul: (a) In the bodilyorder, man needs first to be born; in the spiritual order, birth isbaptism. (b) In the bodily order, man needs to grow to maturity andstrength; in the spiritual order, this is accomplished byconfirmation. (c) In the bodily order, man has constant need ofnourishment to support life and strength; in the spiritual order,the soul is nourished by Holy Eucharist. (d) In the bodily order,sickness or infirmity calls for medicine and care; the soul isrestored to health by penance. (e) In the bodily order, man needsfull vigor, with all traces of past wounds and illnesses removed;the soul has this boon in extreme unction. (f) In the bodily order,there must be peace and seemly rule, and some must have authorityto this end; this need, in the spiritual order, is supplied by holyorders. (g) In the bodily social order, man needs to propagate; inthe spiritual order, this natural need finds sanctification inmatrimony.

2. The fitting order to use in naming the seven sacramentsis this: baptism, confirmation, Holy Eucharist, penance, extremeunction, holy order, matrimony. For first come the sacraments whichperfect the individual man: (a) directly: baptism,confirmation, Holy Eucharist; (b) indirectly: by removingwhat is harmful: penance, extreme unction. Next come the sacramentswhich perfect man in society: holy orders, matrimony.

3. Absolutely speaking, the greatest of all the sacramentsis Holy Eucharist, for it is our Lord and God himself. Yet, on thescore of man's necessity, baptism comes first, and penancenext.

4. And the necessity of which we speak is the necessity ofend. A thing is said to have the necessity of end: (a)simply or absolutely, if the end cannot be attained without it; (b)relatively or nonabsolutely, if the end can be attained without it,but not conveniently or becomingly. Thus, if a man proposes to seea certain mountain, he must, of simple necessity, go to the placewhere the mountain can be seen. Some conveyance is necessary formaking the journey to the place from which the mountain may beviewed, yet, despite difficulty and inconvenience, the man might beable to reach the place by walking, and so could dispense with theconveyance. But it would be a hardship. Now, of all the sacraments,baptism alone is necessary for man's salvation "by thesimple necessity of end." Yet, in case aman sinsmortally after baptism, penance becomes necessary. And, as arequisite for the continuance of the Church, holy order isnecessary.

"To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"
St Augustine

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"A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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