Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit




THCT502 - Sacraments of Initiation

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Sacraments are moments of privileged encounter with God, celebrated in the context of the ecclesial community. This unit introduces students to the study of sacraments and sacramentality through an exploration of the notions of ‘ritual,’ ‘symbol,’ ‘presence’ and ‘encounter.’ It introduces the concepts of Christ as primordial sacrament and the Church as sacrament of Christ in the world. It explores each of the seven sacraments and several sacramentals from anthropological, biblical, historical and contemporary liturgical perspectives. This unit aims to provide students with a broad understanding of principles of sacramental theology and the historical development, theory, ecclesial legislation and ritual practice of sacraments in the Catholic tradition.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - assess the role played by ritual and symbol in the process of human meaning making (GA4, GA5);

LO2 - explain the centrality of sacramental celebrations in forming both individual and corporate ecclesial identity (GA1, GA4, GA5);

LO3 - outline broadly the anthropological and biblical foundations of the Catholic sacraments and the trajectory of their development through history (GA1, GA5);

LO4 - give an account of the sacramental economy of salvation and the fundamental sacramentality of the world in which each Christian is called to live a sacramental life (GA1, GA5);

LO5 - acquire a fundamental knowledge of the theological, Christological, ecclesiological, pneumatological and eschatological facets of the individual sacraments (GA4);

LO6 - demonstrate familiarity with the contemporary ritual texts for sacramental celebrations (GA5).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 


Topics will include:

  • Christ as sacrament of God
  • Church as sacrament of Christ
  • The sacramental economy of salvation and the sacramentality of the world
  • Sacraments as privileged moments of personal and communal encounter with Christ
  • The ritual and symbolic dimensions of sacraments
  • The anthropological and Scriptural foundations of sacraments
  • The historical development of the Catholic sacraments
  • Official church teaching on sacraments as expressed in the contemporary ritual texts
  • Sacraments of Initiation, Healing and Service
  • The role of sacramentals in the Christian life
  • Living a sacramental life (links with ethical living)

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

The unit is normally offered in interactive online mode which enables students to engage in both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities through live online-class interactions and according to their self-devised schedule as individual learners. Online materials are carefully structured and sequenced in modules with built-in exercises and activities designed to support the achievement of the learning outcomes. Through live-online classes students are provided with the opportunity to work collaboratively in groups with the guidance of the lecturer to apply principles in practical activities which enable them to reflect critically on key information, analyse and integrate new information with existing knowledge, draw meaningful new connections, and then work individually to apply what they have learned to sacraments being prepared and celebrated in their own unique circumstances. Students are encouraged to reflect critically on their personal experience and observations in light of materials covered in the unit. Assessment tasks are integrated into and built upon modular unit materials but extent students beyond the modular materials to engage in analysis and research tasks which require them to apply the knowledge they have gained through completion of the unit’s readings, analyses and exercises.

The interactive online mode of this unit requires students to be independent learners, responsible for managing and modifying their own learning journey in response to frequent constructive feedback provided to them on their learning progress evidenced in exercises and assessment tasks. Students are encouraged to establish a regular study schedule for individual reading and online participation. Key to success in the online mode is regular reading, and interaction with fellow students – through online forums and live-classes, students are provided with the opportunity to build a supportive and encouraging learning community so that even when studying at a distance they feel connected to their fellow learners and the lecturer as they proceed through the unit together.

Assessment strategy and rationale

To pass this unit students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve a cumulative grade of Pass (50% or higher). The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to enable students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.

Assessment Task 1: Forum Contributions require students to write online postings and responses to the work of their fellow students which is informed by material presented in the modular materials. This assessment task provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate and articulate their understanding of key aspects of the materials and concepts under consideration in this unit in a focused manner. Online posts and responses provide an opportunity for students to consider, peer-review and offer constructive feedback to each other on postings in light of knowledge gained through study and analysis of unit materials.

Assessment Task 2: The Annotated Bibliography provides students with an opportunity to research, read and analyse appropriate resources for use in their major essay for this unit. It enables students to identify and utilise resources that are directly related to their essay topic to enhance the quality of the final essay and to ensure that students are accessing and reading closely materials that will ensure their achievement of the learning outcomes of the unit.

Assessment Task 3: Major Essay – utilising the knowledge gained through completing the Annotated Bibliography and the relevant unit materials (along with relevant additional primary and secondary bibliographic resources), students will research and write a major essay which enables them to engage in an extended investigation and critical consideration of a topic central to the unit. This assessment offers students the chance to demonstrate a synthesis of knowledge and insight gained throughout the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Forum Contributions: require students to demonstrate their knowledge of key aspects of Sacraments and Sacramentality in online posts and to respond critically to the postings of other students.


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5, LO6

GA1, GA4, GA5

Annotated Bibliography: requires students to identify, analyse and write a critical summary of bibliographic resources directly relating to their major essay topic.



GA1, GA5

Major Essay: requires students to research and write an extended critical consideration of a set essay topic synthesising and demonstrating understanding and application of central concepts of Sacraments covered in this unit.


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

GA1, GA4, GA5

Representative texts and references

Chauvet, Louis Marie. The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2001.

Cooke, Bernard. Sacraments and Sacramentality. Mystic: Twenty-Third, 1994.

Irwin, Kevin W. The Sacraments: Historical Foundations and Liturgical Theology. New York: Paulist, 2016.

Martos, Joseph. Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Rev. ed. Ligouri, MO: Triumph, 2001.

Mitchell, Nathan. Meeting Mystery: Liturgy, Worship, Sacraments. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis,2006.

Nutt, Roger W. General Principles of Sacramental Theology. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2017.

Osborne, K.B. Sacramental Theology: A General Introduction. New York: Paulist, 1988.

_____. Christian Sacraments in a Postmodern World: A Theology for the Third Millennium. New York: Paulist, 1999.

Vorgrimler, Herbert. Sacramental Theology. Trans. Linda M. Maloney. Collegeville: Liturgical, 1992.

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs