In Catholicism we are given certain sacramental character and effects after we receive the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation:

Res Et Sacramentum: the abiding purpose, the sacramental character:

  • Baptism: Incorporates us into Christ and his Church
  • Baptism: Capacity to receive other sacraments
  • Baptism: God's life, the life of the Holy Spirit
  • Confirmation: Configuration to Christ's priesthood
  • Confirmation: seals our souls like armor so that we can be knights in combat for Christ

Res Tantum: the immediate result, the sacramental effects:

  • Baptism: Forgiveness of sin
  • Baptism: Bestowal of Sanctifying Grace
  • Baptism: Infusion of the Supernatural Virtues
  • Baptism: Infusion of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Baptism: Conferral of Actual Graces
  • Confirmation: Grace of mature, Christian witness
  • Confirmation: Grace of spiritual soldiery

(source: Lesson 78: The Sacraments and Lesson 79: Baptism and Confirmation from the Aquinas 101 course)

My question is: once we confess our mortal sin and receive absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation, how do we regain the effects of these two sacraments that were lost when we committed mortal sin?

The points I hope a good answer will clarify / verify are:

  • Is something else needed beyond the priest's absolution? If the answer is no, do all the effects described above came back to our soul automatically?
  • One explanation is that mortal sin introduces an obstacle (obex) in the path of Res Tantum but the character (the Res et Sacramentum) remains, like the SPQR tattoo in a Roman soldier. Absolution removes the obex and does not require the soldier to be re-tattooed. Does it mean that the life of the Holy Spirit remains in the Catholic even when he/she is in the state of mortal sin? How do we reconcile the seemingly incongruent idea that the life of the Holy Spirit can coexist with the state of mortal sin? I hope the answer will clarify this point.
  • Is there anything we need to do (including certain posture of mind/will/emotion) to help restore those character and effects? Is the posture required for a valid confession enough?
  • Given that there are 2 sacraments where Confirmation intensifies the gifts, I'm wondering whether a "re-intensifying" phase is needed post absolution. Or maybe the absolution removes the obex so that the one-time Confirmation does not need to be repeated and that the full effects of the sealing are restored automatically. I hope the answer will verify this, if it is true.

This is a Part Two question to In Catholicism, what happened to the gifts of the Holy Spirit after we committed a mortal sin?

For a background explanation of the Catholic tri-partite theory of sacrament:

  • Is it the case that all the effects of these two sacraments are lost, according to RC, upon commission of mortal sin? Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 13:01
  • @MikeBorden see the related question in my edit Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 13:51
  • The soul that receives a special character upon it’s soul at ordination to the priesthood; yet a mortal sin has no effect upon that character. The soul of the priest in this case has lost it’s friendship with God and is likened to a stranger to the Divine Majesty. A mass said by such a priest would still be valid. I think this is an important theological avenue that should be explored +1.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 14:53
  • @KenGraham As far as I know, a mass said by a priest who has lost friendship with God (in the state of mortal sin) is valid by the principle of ex opere operato, justified by the resolution of the Donatist controversy. The priest commits more sin by celebrating mass before obtaining absolution for his mortal sin. Furthermore, AFAIK it's Christ himself who is the author of the sacrament, who makes the matter and the form of the sacrament STILL be the causal instrument of grace in the recipient. But some questions remain. Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 15:43
  • 1
    Here is an interesting question: Does a priest have to consume the Eucharist no matter the state of his soul?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


You seem to be asking about the “reviviscence” of the Sacraments (reviviscentia sacramentorum).

(b) It is certain and admitted by all, that if Baptism be received by an adult who is in the state of mortal sin, he can afterwards receive the graces of the sacrament, viz. when the obstacle is removed by contrition or by the sacrament of Penance. On the one hand the sacraments always produce grace unless there be an obstacle; on the other hand those graces are necessary, and yet the sacrament cannot be repeated. St. Thomas (III:69:10) and theologians find a special reason for the conferring of the effects of Baptism (when the "fiction" has been removed) in the permanent character which is impressed by the sacrament validly administered. Reasoning from analogy they hold the same with regard to Confirmation and Holy Orders, noting however that the graces to be received are not so necessary as those conferred by Baptism.

Cf. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments: A Dogmatic Treatise: Vol. 1: The Sacraments in General, pt. 1, ch. 5, §1 "The requisites of valid reception", (b); Leeming, S.J., Principles of Sacramental Theology, pp. 122-124, §"118. What exactly is the 'obex', the obstacle, to the infusion of grace?"

  • Reviviscence as discussed in your Pohle reference seems to be about when we are not worthily receive certain sacraments where the effects were blocked until we rectify them later. The Leeming reference is about obstacle introduced for bad confession / sacrilege in communion. But I'm talking about restoration of the gifts given / sealed at Baptism & Confirmation. The closest one I can find in Pohle (so far) is in Sacraments Vol 3 (Penance) Part II Ch II Section 3: The Reviviscence of Previously Acquired Merits as the Third Effect of the Sacrament. But it only touches Merit, not gifts. Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 23:57
  • @GratefulDisciple Reviviscence of merits is something completely different from the reviviscence of the sacraments.
    – Geremia
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 0:01
  • I think my question has to do with the sacrament of penance. Obviously some effects of baptism / confirmation were blocked after mortal sin. Absolution seems to remove the block. My question is: will those blocked effects from baptism/confirmation flow again automatically after a valid absolution? Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 0:25

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