Catholics believe that the physical world is good, although flawed, and God becoming man somehow elevates it to a new level; for not only had God created it, He also dwelled in it.
Stop and think about Catholicism and the use of physical things from incense for smell, art for the eyes, music for the ears, motion for the body (kneeling, genuflecting, crossing ourselves, etc.). Sacraments take this even further with the required use of corporal things like bread, wine, water, oil, touch, garments, physical speech. Catholics understand how the physical relates to the spiritual and vise-versa, and how reality encompasses both. This is mirrored in the sacraments and can even be expressed as a kind of map that parallels our earthly life. God is Emmanuel, truly “with us”, all the year and all our life through the sanctifying grace of the sacraments.
Baptism:Just as we are born into physical life we are born again into the spiritual life of Christ in baptism. By the way, if you are a baptized Catholic and someone were to ask you “Are you born again?” The answer is unequivocally “Yes”. Although we can sin afterwards, Catholics are “born again” at baptism. This is the reality.
Confirmation:We experience growth in our physical life. In the United States we are given more “power” and responsibility as we grow, like the right to vote at age 18. This happens regardless of how we feel about it or how mature we may think we are. Confirmation begins a process of maturation and strengthening and is considered a completion of baptism. We experience growth to go forth and preach the good news and we have the responsibility to do so, whether we like it or not; whether we think we are mature enough or not.
Sacraments of Vocation (Marriage, Holy Orders):As we grow and mature we discern some duty within society; some type of job/career or perhaps raising a family. In the spiritual life there are vocations and certain sacraments to help us advance the Kingdom of God.
Eucharist:As we live, we continuously need physical sustenance (food/water) for our physical journey. Jesus gave himself as our spiritual food; our daily bread (body/blood) for our spiritual journey.
Reconciliation:As we go through life we experience sickness and injury which require healing. Many never experience serious injury or disease, but no one gets through life without the slightest sniffle, cough, bruise or cut. With no healing it gets worse and worse to the point of death. What these things do to the body, sin does to the soul, thus the need for spiritual healing.
After all, we can injure our own flesh whenever we want, but to heal it we look for a doctor who has skill, training & medical authority. In the same way we are perfectly able to sin and injure our soul, but to heal it we seek the help of “another”, a spiritual doctor.
Anointing of the sick:Our physical life eventually comes to an end, and so there is a sacrament for this as well. Although the anointing of the sick is not always administered just before death, it should be received at some point before we die.
This sketchy outline of the sacraments is very simple (almost pathetic). But like so much in this blog, what is here is only a beginning; we have the rest of our lives to draw out Truth from an inexhaustible well.