Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press (artist unknown)

Like the invention of the internet in our own day,
the introduction of the printing press in the 15th century
tremendously increased the amount and speed of information available.

The following print, video and audio files may be downloaded for free from this website. They are educational materials intended for the users of this website, but they are also copyrighted, so they should not be used or duplicated for profit. They may, however, be duplicated for personal or classroom use.

NOTE: Some browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome) work better than others for downloading print, audio and video files. If you experience difficulty when using one browser, try using a different one.

Short Pieces

These articles and talks are related to some of the key ideas in the book. They may be read in any order, but they are listed here in a sequence that might be helpful to someone for whom these are new ideas.

Mistakes Catholics Make When Talking About Sacraments (5 pages)
Discusses a number of words and phrases and why they are misleading when used in talking about sacramental rituals today.

Why “Receiving the Sacraments” Is Wrong (3 pages)
Focuses on this phrase and explains why today it does more harm than good.

Everyday Sacramentality (7 pages)
Discusses spiritual experiences and spiritual realities in relation to symbols that are personally meaningful and in relation to religious rituals such as the sacraments.

Religion, Ritual and Sacramentality (7 pages)
Situates the Catholic sacraments in the context of world religions, explaining how symbols and symbolic rituals connect people with spiritual realities that are important to human life.

Christian Ritual and Magic (4 pages)
Discusses how the concept of magic can be used to understand the automatic effectiveness of rituals, including Christian rituals.

The Meaning of the Sacraments (4 pages)
Explains where the meaning of symbols and rituals is found, discusses three dimensions of meaning, and applies this analysis to sacramental celebrations.

The Mystery of the Paschal Mystery (5 pages)
Argues that the pachal mystery is something that is experienced whenever people are spiritually energized through selflessly caring for others.

The Changing Nature of Sacramental Theology (2 pages)
Introduces the argument that the traditional Catholic theology of the sacraments has become dysfunctional.

The Copernican Revolution in Sacramental Theology (11 pages)
Develops the argument that the traditional Catholic theology of the sacraments has become dysfunctional and that it has been replaced by a pluralistic approach, even though church law is still very dependent on the scholastic approach.

What Does Transubstantiation Explain? (8 pages)
Argues that transubstantiation is a theory that was developed to understand believers' perception of Christ's presence in bread and wine once they were consecrated during mass.

The Sacramentality of the Homily (7 pages)
Shows why presenting concrete examples of spiritual truths is more effective than giving abstract explanations of them.

Video Presentation
The two-part video version of my presentation, "Spiritual Realities and Symbolic Rituals," can be accessed by clicking on the words, "Video Presentation."


Audio Presentation

Spiritual Realities and Symbolic Rituals (about 2 hrs.)
The audio portion of the video presentation in MP3 format, suitable for listening or downloading.

Click on "Part 1" or "Part 2" to download the selection into the Windows Media Player on your computer.

Click on either start button (>) to play the selection using the Moodle media player on the website server.

Part 1
Part 2

Printed Presentation

Spiritual Realities and Symbolic Rituals (44 pages)
An edited script for the above presentation that was circulated and discussed at the 2008 annual convention of the College Theology Society under the title, "Understanding the Sacraments Today." (In their correspondence with the author found on this website, members of the CTS refer to the work by this title.)

  1. Defining Sacraments
  2. Spiritual Realities
  3. Material Signs
  4. Symbolic Rituals (Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, Ordination, Eucharist)
  5. Conclusion

Audio Lectures

The Sacraments in History
Twelve digitized recordings originally published as "A History of the Sacraments" by Alba House Communications in 1986. Each lecture corresponds to one of the chapters in my book, Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church, originally published by Doubleday in 1981 with subsequent editions published by Liguori in 1991 and 2001. A new edition will appear soon with updated bibiographies and recent developments.

            NOTE: These lectures occasionally speak of administering and receiving sacraments as was customary in traditional sacramental theology.

To listen to a lecture, click on the title or on the start (>) button.

TALK ONE What Is a Sacrament? (24 min.)

  1. The meaning of "sacrament"
  2. The function of symbol
  3. The experience of the sacred
  4. Sacramentals and sacraments
  5. Sacraments and presence
  6. Sacramental effects
  7. Celebration rituals and transition rituals
  8. A concluding definition

TALK TWO Sacraments in Early Christian Times (28 min.)

  1. Sacraments in other religions
  2. Sacraments in the early Christian community
  3. Sacraments in the first three centuries
  4. Sacraments in the second three centuries
  5. The sacramental seal or character
  6. Receiving and administering sacraments
  7. Receiving sacraments only once
  8. Conclusion and summary

TALK THREE Medieval Sacramental Theology (48 min.)

  1. Seven sacraments
  2. Sign, reality, and sacamental reality
  3. sacramental character
  4. Sacramental causality and effectiveness
  5. Sacamental power
  6. Other theological terms
  7. Legalism and magic

TALK FOUR Protestant and Catholic Sacraments (27 min.)

  1. The need for reform
  2. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli
  3. How many sacraments?
  4. The Catholic Counter-reformation
  5. Unofficial sacraments

TALK FIVE The Sacraments Today (37 min.)

  1. Steps leading to change
  2. Changes in sacramental experience
  3. Changes in sacramental theology

TALK SIX The History of Baptism (35 min.)

  1. Early Christian baptism
  2. Baptism in the early patristic period
  3. Baptism in the later patristic period
  4. Baptism in the Middle Ages
  5. Baptism in modern times
  6. Baptism in the church today

TALK SEVEN The History of Confirmation (23 min.)

  1. The origins of confirmation
  2. Christian intiation and the reception of the Holy Spirit
  3. Consignation and confirmation
  4. The scholastic theology of confirmation
  5. The modern theology and practice of confirmation
  6. Confirmation: theory and pracice today

TALK EIGHT The History of Eucharist (57 min.)

  1. Preliminaries
  2. The last supper and the Lord's supper
  3. The early Christian eucharist
  4. Patristic liturgies
  5. Private masses
  6. Scholastic theology
  7. Reformation views
  8. Counter-reformation views
  9. Modern times
  10. The contemporary scene

TALK NINE The History of Penance and Reconciliation (36 min.)

  1. Binding and loosing
  2. Second baptism
  3. Public repentance
  4. Deathbed repentance
  5. Private confession
  6. Scholastic theology
  7. Penance, indulgences, and the Reformation
  8. The Catholic counter-reformation and modern times
  9. The sacrament of reconciliation in the church today

TALK TEN The History of Anointing the Sick (18 min.)

  1. Healing and salvation in the New Testament
  2. Healing and anointing in the early church
  3. Anointing in the early Middle Ages
  4. The theology of extreme unction
  5. The sacrament during the Reformation and afterward
  6. Anointing of the sick today

TALK ELEVEN The History of Sacramental Marriage (35 min.)

  1. Marriage and divorce in the scriptures
  2. Christian marriage in the patristic period
  3. From Christian marriage to church marriage
  4. The scholastic theology of marriage
  5. Canon laws and marriage contracts
  6. Marriage and the Reformation
  7. Marriage in modern times

TALK TWELVE The History of Ministerial Orders (46 min.)

  1. Ministry in the New Testament
  2. Development of the episcopal priesthood
  3. Development of the presbyteral priesthood
  4. Monks and priests in the Middle Ages
  5. The ordination ceremony and the sacrament of holy orders
  6. The Protestant reinterpretation of ministry
  7. The Catholic renewal of the episcopacy and priesthood
  8. Priests in the modern world
  9. Priesthood and ministry today

To discuss any of the above works, or to make suggestions about this page,
please write to me at




Last modified: Wednesday, 19 October 2016, 1:59 AM