According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholics receive new life of Christ through the sacraments of Christian initiation -- baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. But one carries this new life in "earthen vessels" and is still subject to suffering, illnesses and death. This new life as a child of God can be weakened during the course of one's life and even lost by sin. (no. 1420)
It is the sacraments of healing -- reconciliation and anointing of the sick -- that allow Catholics to return to that new life of Christ. These sacraments provide us with a means of reconnecting to the grace of God's presence with humility and sincerity.
They are also sacraments of transformation. As is usually the case with the transformational process, interior soul-searching can sometimes be painful. It is a process that comes from the heart and can lead to a sense of peace and comfort in one's life.
Unlike other sacraments, the sacraments of healing are private experiences. They are one-on-one encounters with the priest who administers the sacrament and the person experiencing it. The priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) to enable that individual to enjoy the grace of God's presence again.
"This healing is sometimes spiritual, sometimes psychological, sometimes physical," Msgr. Jack Harris said explaining the effect of these sacraments.
He is pastor of St. Patrick, St. Mary and St. Augustine churches in North Little Rock. He also serves as a prison minister and crisis counselor for the National Organization for Victim Assistance.
"Most people, when they come to confession, are looking for spiritual direction more than anything else. They are coming to deal with the sinfulness, the pain, the difficulties that are in their lives. How people understand it probably has a lot to do with what they are experiencing in their own lives at the moment they decide to avail themselves of the sacrament," he said.
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