Faith and Sacraments

Does a person have to have real faith for the sacraments to be valid/work? (sorry, best way I could think to describe it.)

I think it is taught that the sacraments convey grace, is that right? What does this mean?

If someone (like many teens) don’t want to do confirmation, but parents force them to, is it really confirmation?

Your understanding is correct: the sacraments convey grace. This means they give us supernatural life (or more exactly, a participation in the divine nature). We need this commonality with God in order to be united with him in the profound way that we call the “indwelling”, and in order to see him face to face after death.

The only sacrament that requires faith for validity is baptism (in the case of infants, the faith of the parents or guardians suffices until the child reaches the age of discretion, around seven years depending on the child). Once someone is baptized, they receive sacraments validity whether they have faith or not (but to receive them without faith would be a sacrilege).

It is *possible *to invalidate a sacrament by deliberately willing not to receive it, but I don’t think mere reluctance counts. See Fr. Grondin’s answer to this question.

St Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, Part 3, Question 69, Articles 9 and 10, indicates that, although the sacrament of Baptism may be validly received, insincerity may hinder the effect of the sacrament until the insincerity ceases. (source)

This is probably the case with most of the other sacraments as well, especially those that can only be validly received once.

After further consideration, I’d like to withdraw this assertion, as I’m not certain it’s true. Penance, for example, requires contrition, which implies supernatural motives. But the rest I stand by.

Valid baptism does not require faith in the recipient.

If you have water poured on your head, with the right formula, with the right intention on the part of the minister, then you are baptized. This is why we accept the baptisms of other Christians, though we would not strictly speaking say that they have the virtue of faith, as Thomas understands it in the article I’ve linked to.

As for other sacraments, I’m not sure why it would be any different, except for matrimony and confession… Though the effects would of course not appear until sincerity comes about, except in the case of Holy Orders.

Thanks for the link. I love St. Thomas.

The way it was explained to me, the faith necessary for valid baptism is not the divine virtue of faith (which is infused in baptism, along with the other virtues), but sort of pre-faith which consists essentially in a belief in God and docility to his Church. This would seem to be consistent with what St. Thomas writes in the passage you linked:

Even he who has not right faith on other points, can have right faith about the sacrament of Baptism … Yet even if he think not aright concerning this sacrament, it is enough, for the receiving of the sacrament, that he should have a general intention of receiving Baptism, according as Christ instituted, and as the Church bestows it.

I guess that is what I mean by “faith” in this case, the general intention.

Getting back to the OP, I’m not sure this would apply to Confirmation, since confirmands have been baptized and should have received the divine virtue of faith.

Real faith for Catholics is not a worry or point of contention. It is also not subjective or based on feelings or emotions.

Faith is a decision and an assent to the teaching of Jesus and His church

There are three things to note with respect to this question:

  1. Validity
  2. Licitness
  3. Hindrances

With regards to validity, a Sacrament is valid or not depending on the intention and form of the minister confecting the Sacrament. If the minister intends by his actions to do what the Church intends by that action, and if he adheres to the correct form of the Sacrament, as defined by the Church, then the Sacrament is valid, regardless of anything else.

With regards to licitness, a Sacrament may only be performed licitly as long as the minister of the Sacrament has be so authorized by the Church to do so, and within the strictures and guidelines that the Church has established for each Sacrament. A Sacrament may be performed licitly, but not validly, and a Sacrament may be performed validly, but not licitly. For example, a Black Priest (a validly ordained priest who has become Satanic) may validly consecrate the Eucharist, but does so illicitly. Likewise, a priest in good standing with the Church may perform the Eucharistic Sacrament licitly, but if he does not believe in the real presence (for example), then the Sacrament is not completed validly.

The third thing to consider are hindrances to the Sacramental Graces. A Sacrament may be completed validly and licitly, and still not convey the graces that the Sacrament intends. Hindrances to these graces lie with the person who is receiving the Sacrament, and may consist in deficient knowledge or understanding of what the Sacrament is and does, or deficient intention in the reception of the Sacrament.

So, a person may be Confirmed both licitly and validly, but of the confirmand either does not understand the Sacrament, or does not want to receive it (for example), but is being pressured to do so, then the graces that the Sacrament intends to convey are hindered.

Likewise, for example, with Penance, if the one confessing is not properly disposed (i.e., not really sorry). The Sacrament, ministered by the Priest, may be completed licitly and validly, but the graces of the Sacrament can be hindered by the one receiving it.

Baptism is ministered by any validly baptized person, cleric or lay, and the same rules apply.

Marriage is ministered by the couple, not the priest, which is why the intention of either the Bride or Groom may render the Sacrament invalid, because they may not be intending to accomplish by the marriage what the Church intends by it.

I hope this helps.

So I was not quite right - check this out:

But faith, strictly speaking, is still not generally required in the recipient. Which is why even the children of the Jews would receive valid baptism - see article 10.

There are all kinds of errors here. Most notable is the thought that one must be baptized in order to baptize - this is manifestly false. CCC #1256 goes out of its way to deny this.

There is also a general confusion of how intentions relate to sacraments and their liceity and validity.

What I was really getting at is - if someone does not have real faith in Christ, is the sacrament valid and does it convey grace? And if you see no change or fruit for a long time afterward - decades?

Was reading Luke 9:37-43 last nite with my daughters. Jesus gave power over demons to the disciples, but they could not cast them out, and Jesus says “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?” Then he rebukes the unclean spirit and heals the boy.

Seems to me one of the major themes of the Gospels is that one must have faith for God’s gift to work in them.

For marriage to be valid, both parties must consent - it is between two people.

Confirmation is between a person and God - I believe both must consent. I am sure God is good, it’s our half I’m concerned about.

I am just trying to flush this out. It seems like this is a Protestant concept being applied to the Catholic Church. It is not exactly the same in all aspects.

As a Catholic, you are required to believe in the sacramental teachings of the church in order to participate in them. Our faith is strengthened by grace, but what we are speaking about here is a decision.

Certain segments of this video, especially the last quarter of it (or so), address this issue of “real faith”.

It is more an issue of docility than choice. Unless you are intending NOT to receive a sacrament, it is going to work, in the cases of baptism and confirmation.

I’m not so sure about Holy Orders. Seems that one is going to work no matter what.

There is some of my question - what does “going to work” mean?

I understand your point.

However, with sola fide, the resulting question is whether or not one has real faith. This question becomes the focal point, and often results in subjective analysis.

The only point here is that assent to sacramental teaching is not subjective in a like manner, but it is the requirement to participate.

Just listened to “The Journey Home” you posted - THANK YOU! It was excellent!

Put a new perspective on faith. I am working out of a protestant background, and came to the Catholic Church because I saw Sola Scriptura was not right, along with the Eucharist being what Jesus said and Ignatius of Antioch’s teaching on it, among other things.

But - I am working on re-ordering a lot of my views - so your help is really appreciated.

:thumbsup: yeeeey!

FYI his radio show is Mon- Fri at 2 pm EST on ewtn radio, also live on YouTube

It’s named called to communion

Thank you for the correction regarding Baptism.

Can you be clearer regarding intentions.

Thank you.

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