A sacrament is a ‘sensible and efficacious sign of grace instituted by Christ to sanctify our souls.’ Catechism of St Pius X
The Seven Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ Himself and are necessary for salvation. Only the Catholic Church can confer these as they were entrusted to the Apostles.
The sacraments are ‘sensible’ because they can be observed with the senses and ‘efficacious’ because they bring about an actual spiritual change or grace. They are not symbols of something interior but actually confer grace on the soul. This Sanctifying Grace is a free gift from God and cannot be earned, it was won for all the faithful by Jesus’ sacrifice of himself on the cross. It is called ‘Sanctifying’ because us makes us holier, justified before God, adopted children of God and heirs to a share of God’s heavenly glory. Grace strengthens us as we strive to avoid sin and grow in holiness. The efficacy of a sacrament is dependent on the disposition of the person receiving it, as will be explained.