The Roman Catholic Church has seven sacraments, the Protestant has two. And they regard them differently. Had to look up sacrament.
The catechism (1084) defines sacrament as instituted by Christ to communicate his grace. They are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.
Steve Ray in Crossing the Tiber (p. 27) says that according to St. Augustine a sacrament is a "visible form of invisible grace". Ray also quotes his instructor from the time he and his wife were entering the church and his definition sounds right out of the catechism. Ray ends his footnote saying that in sacraments, you experience the Spirit working in and through matter.
Then I looked it up in my handy-dandy IVP Bible Dictionary. The editor(s) acknowledge that we owe our definition of the word to St. Augustine. The dictionary's definition was easily 5 times as long as the catechism's. Some highlights: the elements have no power; it is their faithful use that matters. And, regarding the extra sacraments of the RCC there is "no scriptural warrant for giving the other so-called sacramental rites the same status as Baptism and the Lord's Supper."
More stuff swimming around in my brain. I guess for the record, I'll list the 7 sacraments according to the RCC:
Anointing of the Sick
Wanna really jar your brain? There are also sacramentals - just to give you more to figure out. "These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy." - Catechism, 1667 Examples: blessings of people, food, objects and places - and I think crossing yourself as Catholics do is a sacramental. There are more, I don't know 'em.
This stuff, to me, is on one hand, really cool. I like the idea that these things exist and I can believe that they would/could bring you closer to God in some ways. On the other hand (and there is lately ALWAYS another hand in my sorting) they would/could get in the way of your relationship with God. Not to mention that I'm just not sure I believe in them. I want to spend more time in prayer, more reading time, and more time in Mass. My fear? That this questioning might go on forever with no suitable answers for my wandering mind and I'll never be able to make a decision. That just sucks.
I think that if I could get myself alone on an island with whatever is in my brain right now, but NO books, NO scripture, NO e-mail or phone connection, and NO bugging influence of the church we just left behind (our local church specifically, not the Protestant church as a whole) - I might personally be drawn to the RCC and it's teachings. I believe my existing relationship with Jesus would be enhanced, not compromised. But I'm not on that island. I'm stuck here still in that river made dangerous by all the debris floating by. And what if the island isn't the escape I first pictured, but my relationship with Jesus - and the river of junk is the Catholic church? The Protestant me says that's exactly the true analogy here. The Catholic me says, well, eventually you'd want to build a church on the island, right?
Finally, I was reading along in the baptism section of Tiber and looking up scripture references in my NIV Study Bible (non-Catholic, obviously) and came across a study note denouncing the Catholic interpretation of that particular verse. Bother. I'm frustrated by this. The Bibles are getting in on the fight. Duh, I guess they're the center of it.