Holy Orders

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the continuation of Christ’s priesthood, which He bestowed upon His Apostles; thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Sacrament of Holy Orders as “the sacrament of apostolic ministry.”

“Ordination” comes from the Latin word ordinatio, which means to incorporate someone into an order. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a man is incorporated into the priesthood of Christ, at one of three levels: the episcopate, the priesthood, or the diaconate.

A priest is a go between. He links God and man and man with God. So, he needs to be truly human and posses some divine powers. Clearly Jesus, being both God and man is the perfect high priest. But all who are baptised share in the priestly office to some degree. Out of these a few are chosen by Christ’s Church to be given extra divine powers.

♦     To faithfully bring God’s message to the people.

♦     To offer sacrifice to God on behalf of the people.

He is also a leader of the Christian community.

Originally there were just bishops, then deacons, then, at some stage, priests. The bishop had overall responsibility for the local Church. The deacon assisted the Bishop in serving the poor and preaching. As the churches spread the bishop needed more localised men as his representatives. These are the priests. They have most of the ordinary powers of the bishop but some they only exercise in emergency.

An example of this latter is that in the Eastern Catholic Church babies are baptised, confirmed and given a drop of the precious blood all in one celebration. In the Western Catholic Church the Bishop kept confirmation for himself. Consequently, since he could not get round so often, Confirmation came at a later date and usually AFTER First Communion.

Priests usually take about six years to train. Permanent Deacons, who may be married, take about three years part time. This is time to see if the man has a true VOCATION. This is a call from the Church based on the man’s desire to serve.

NB. When we speak about the powers of the priest, we do not mean that he should boss people about. Leadership should be one of service to the people and the wider Church. Father does not know everything and does not have to decide everything.

Most priests will tell you that his vocation is the happiest one possible.

Click the following link for the full text from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Catechism of the Catholic Church – Holy Orders.