2000 May/Questions

Q. Why are the sacraments in the order given in the Penny Catechism?

Why are the seven sacraments always quoted in the order given in the Penny Catechism? It cannot be chronological order because Confirmation is normally received after Confession and Holy Communion, and Extreme Unction is generally the last sacrament we receive. It cannot be in order of importance because Confirmation is not necessary for salvation and is surely of less importance than Confession and Holy Communion. I think the order given is confusing for Catechists teaching children because they ask why the sacraments are always quoted and even depicted in that strange order.


A. The order of the sacraments in the Penny Catechism is: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Order and Matrimony. This order follows the analogy between the life of the body and the life of the soul which the sacraments nurture. To quote from The Catechism Explained, by Fr. Spirago: “The seven sacraments answer exactly to the needs of the soul, which resemble to a certain extent the exigencies of the body. The life of the soul begins at Baptism, it is fortified by Confirmation, brought to perfection by the Holy Eucharist; if the life of the soul be lost, it is restored by Penance and Extreme Unction; it is kept up by Holy Orders and Matrimony from generation to generation.” The first five sacraments meets the needs of the individual; the last two meet the needs of the spiritual society of which the individual is a part.

Q.Does embalming preclude the possibility of a miracle?

As Archbishop Lefebvre’s body was apparently embalmed before being entombed, would the discovery of his incorruptible body in future years still be considered to be a miracle for canonisation?

Embalming dues not maintain the body in anything like a perfect state of preservation (take a look at an Egyptian mummy!) but merely keeps its exterior appearance more or less intact. Incorruptible bodies of saints are much better preserved than that. The doctor who examined the liver of St. Bernadette (the first organ to become corrupt) more than 50 years after her death stated that it was in the state of a liver of someone who had died only half an hour previously. It would be easy for a doctor who examined the body of the Archbishop to tell the difference between incorruption and the state of preservation maintained by embalming.