The Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Each one is a stage in the sacramental progress of Catholics. Baptism initiates the one baptized into the Catholic Church founded by Christ, conferring on the person sanctifying grace and the infused virtues. Confirmation strengthens the sanctifying grace received at Baptism, especially the virtue of faith, enabling the one confirmed to live and profess and defend the faith received at Baptism. The Holy Eucharist provides the nourishment of the supernatural life that was received at Baptism and strengthened at Confirmation.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist confers the fullness of Christian initiation. Baptism and Confirmation require the Sacrament of the Eucharist to reach their fullness or fruition in the person, which is why the Holy Eucharist should be received soon after reaching the age of reason.

Both Baptism and the Eucharist are necessary for salvation; Baptism first, then the Holy Eucharist. If a child dies before reaching the age of reason, that child still had the implicit obligation to receive the Holy Eucharist. In other words, the Eucharist is necessary for salvation, even if an individual without blame cannot actually receive it.  In such circumstances this person must, at least in some way, be open to desiring the Eucharist because this desire is implicit in being baptized.  In the Eastern Rite, First Communion is given immediately after Baptism precisely to recognize this need.

What is missing from this discussion is an explanation of the different forms of necessity regarding the obligation to receive a given Sacrament.  Not all of the Sacraments need to be received in order for a person to be saved. The Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, however, need to be received in order to be saved, but in different ways:

  • Baptism (or its substitute, Baptism of Blood or Baptism of Desire) must be received in virtue of a necessity of means: without Baptism it is impossible to receive other Sacraments no matter how well-intentioned a person is because the non-baptized is still spiritually dead.  Hence, without Baptism one cannot be saved. 
  • The necessity to receive Holy Communion, however, is one of grave moral obligation and, hence, though one may be excused for sufficient reason, they are not permanently excused.  Hence, the need of a believer to receive Holy Communion, or at least to be open to receiving Holy Communion, is necessary to be saved.

The Holy Eucharist is the very center, the very peak, the very basis of the entire sacramental order of the Church. All the other Sacraments are directed to and find their fulfillment in the Eucharist. Not only does the Eucharist confer divine grace, but it contains the Author of divine grace. The Eucharist IS Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the incarnate God, living in our midst, and the person who receives the Holy Eucharist worthily has one foot on earth and the other foot in Heaven.

The Eucharist is absolutely necessary for salvation. In the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, Christ Himself declares that, unless we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, we shall not have life in us. The Eucharist is necessary for maintaining the supernatural life originally received in Baptism. It is so important that, since the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, the Church has insisted that, at least once a year between Ash Wednesday and either Pentecost Sunday (Ordinary Form) or Trinity Sunday (Extraordinary Form), every Catholic must receive Holy Communion worthily. This Easter Duty is binding under penalty of mortal sin. (For Basic Course 12-98. For Advanced Course lessons 17 to 20.)