The Sacrament of Holy Orders
“Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus, it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees”—the orders of bishop, priest, and deacon.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1536
Holy Orders is the sacrament in which a baptised man receives the authority and ability to share in the particular mission Christ entrusted to his apostles. There are three orders of this sacrament: the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate…bishop, priest and deacon. From our baptism we all share in the ministry of Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King. Within that common priesthood certain men are called, by God, to exercise Christ’s priesthood, in a particular and ministerial way.
Where do Holy Orders come from?
Holy Orders come from Jesus Christ, who chose twelve men whom he called ‘Apostles’. He gave them the commission and power to govern, teach and sanctify (Mt 18:18; Mt 28:19-20; Lk 22:19).
How are Holy Orders passed on?
The apostles conferred Holy Orders on their successors, the bishops. These in turn ordained further bishops, priests and deacons through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration according to the rite of the Church.
The Three Sacramental Orders
Bishops are the successors of the apostles and usually govern dioceses. They confer Holy Orders and normally administer Confirmation. United with the Pope, they exercise an infallible teaching authority in the Church. Priests are co-workers of the bishops, particularly in administering parishes where they also teach and sanctify the faithful through the sacraments. Deacons assist the work of the bishop and his priests. Following Christ’s example, a promise of lifelong celibacy is the normal condition for receiving Holy Orders in the West, although a permanent deacon may be married.
The ordained priest is a man of sacrifice. He offers the sacrifice of the Mass ‘in the person of Christ’ and draws people into communion with God the Father. The priest restores people to communion, as seen, for example, when he reconciles them in confession and when he anoints the sick. The ordained priesthood is a means by which Christ has chosen to lead people into faith, hope and love so that the Church might proclaim God’s mercy to all.
The call to Holy Orders
Jesus taught that the call to Holy Orders is his initiative rather than ours, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). The call is discerned and freely accepted by the man who receives it. The Church tests this call and prepares the candidate for Holy Orders by means of spiritual, human, academic and pastoral formation, usually in a seminary, where candidates undergo formation for ministry.
Vocation and Discernment
The process of making a decision about our life, with help of the Holy Spirit, is called “discernment.” It is the process of discovering God’s will. In this process we get to know both ourselves and God more profoundly. We desire to make decisions in life leading to happiness, which is what God also wants for each of us. Perhaps you are contemplating vocation? Perhaps, you are being called to the Priesthood, Diaconate or Consecrated life?
Consecrated life is the Church’s way of referring to the wide range of opportunities for individuals to dedicate themselves to a life of prayer and service, often as sisters, nuns, brothers and monks. Learn more at http://www.ukvocation.org/consecrated-life
If you are aged 20-35 and have ever wondered whether life in a religious order – as a nun, monk, brother, sister or priest – might be the life for you, the Compass course could help you find your direction. Find out more at http://www.compass-points.org.uk/
Are you thinking of Priesthood or the Permanent Diaconate?
Find out more at:
http://www.ukvocation.org or http://cliftondiocese.com/vocations
In any case, first do come and have a chat with Fr Michael, if you wish to explore a possible vocation. The Church community is here to support you.