Baptism is the first and basic sacrament of Christian initiation. In the Western or Latin Rite of the Church, baptism is usually conferred today by pouring water three times on the recipient's head, while reciting the baptismal formula: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Matthew 28:19). In the Eastern Catholic Churches immersion or submersion is used, and the formula is: "The servant of God, N., is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Though sprinkling is not normally used, its validity is accepted, provided that the water flows over the skin, since otherwise it is not a washing. The ordinary minister of the sacrament is a bishop or priest, or (in the Western Church, but not in the Eastern Catholic Churches) a deacon. In case of necessity, anyone intending to do what the Church does, even if that person is not a Christian, can baptize. The sacrament frees from original sin and all personal sins, and from the punishment due to them. Baptism makes the person share in the Trinitarian life of God through "sanctifying grace," the grace of justification that incorporates the person into the body of Christ and his Church), also making the person a sharer in the priesthood of Christ. It imparts the "theological" virtues (faith, hope, and charity) and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and marks the baptized person with a spiritual seal or character that indicates permanent belonging to Christ. Baptism is the foundation of communion between all Christians. The many symbols of baptism include a white garment, symbolizing innocence and purity, a candle, symbolising the Light of Christ, the Oil of Chrism, which is used to anoint the baby or candidate (catechumen) being baptised, and the water, which symbolizes cleansing and the washing away of sin.
Confirmation or Chrismation is the second sacrament of Christian initiation. "It is called Chrismation (in the Eastern Churches: anointing with holy myron or chrism) because the essential rite of the sacrament is anointing with chrism. It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens baptismal grace." It is conferred by "the anointing with Sacred Chrism (oil mixed with balsam and consecrated by the bishop), which is done by the laying on of the hand of the minister who pronounces the sacramental words proper to the rite." These words, in both their Western and Eastern variants, refer to a gift of the Holy Spirit that marks the recipient as with a seal. Through the sacrament the grace given in baptism is "strengthened and deepened." Like baptism, confirmation may be received only once, and the recipient must be in a state of grace (meaning free from any known unconfessed mortal sin) in order to receive its effects. The "originating" minister of the sacrament is a validly consecrated bishop; if a priest (a "presbyter") confers the sacrament — as is done ordinarily in the Eastern Churches and in special cases (such as the baptism of an adult or in danger of the death of a young child) in the Latin Church (CCC 1312–1313) — the link with the higher order is indicated by the use of oil (known as "chrism" or "myron") blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday itself or on a day close to it. In the East, which retains the ancient practice, the sacrament is administered by the parish priest immediately after baptism. In the West, where administration is normally reserved for those who can understand its significance, it came to be postponed until the recipient's early adulthood; but in view of the earlier age at which children are now admitted to reception of the Eucharist, it is more and more restored to the traditional order and administered before giving the third sacrament of Christian initiation.
The Eucharist is the sacrament (the third of Christian initiation, the one that, as stated in CCC 1322, "completes Christian initiation") by which Catholics partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and participate in his one sacrifice. The first of these two aspects of the sacrament is also called Holy Communion. The bread (which must be wheaten, and which is unleavened in the Latin, Armenian and Ethiopic Rites, but is leavened in most Eastern Rites) and wine (which must be from grapes) used in the Eucharistic rite are, in Catholic faith, transformed in all but appearance into the Body and Blood of Christ, a change that is called transubstantiation. Only a bishop or priest is enabled to be a minister of the Eucharist, acting in the person of Christ himself. Deacons as well as priests are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and lay people may be authorized in limited circumstances to act as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The Eucharist is seen as "the source and summit" of Christian living, the high point of God's sanctifying action on the faithful and of their worship of God, the point of contact between them and the liturgy of heaven. So important is it that participation in the Eucharistic celebration (see Mass) is seen as obligatory on every Sunday and holy day of obligation and is recommended on other days. Also recommended for those who participate in the Mass is reception, with the proper dispositions, of Holy Communion. This is seen as obligatory at least once a year, during Eastertide.