In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, or Ordination, the priest being ordained vows to lead other Catholics by bringing them the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), by proclaiming the Gospel, and by providing other means to holiness.
Orders is the sacrament by which a man is made a bishop, a priest, or a deacon, and is thereafter dedicated to be an image of Christ. A baptized man is ordained into one of these three Orders by a prayer of consecration and the laying on of hands by a bishop. This liturgical act confers the authority to preach the Word of God and administer the other sacraments, according to the station of each Order.
Bishops, Priests & Deacons
Bishops, granted the "fullness of orders," may confer all seven of the sacraments and are empowered to lead the Church in terms of sound doctrine and pastoral administration. Priests, as cooperators of the bishops in their sacramental ministry, may confer all of the sacraments except Holy Orders, the sacrament of governance, itself.
As ministers of service, Deacons assist bishops and priests in the celebration of the sacred mysteries, in works of charity, in blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel, in administering baptism, and in presiding over funerals.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Sacrament of Holy Orders as "the sacrament of apostolic ministry." Just as Jesus called for his disciples to go out and minister to the people, so too are those seeking this sacrament called to answer Christ's call.
Aspirants to the priesthood are required by to go through a seminary program that includes graduate level philosophical and theological studies and a formation program that includes spiritual direction, retreats, apostolate experience, etc. The course of studies in preparation for ordination as a permanent deacon is decided by the episcopal conference concerned.
Currently, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is only conferred on baptized men who have been determined to meet the church's eligibility for the sacrament. While the episcopate (bishop, cardinal, or pope) is reserved to unmarried men, the discipline regarding the priesthood varies in East and West. The Eastern Churches allow married men to be ordained priests, while the Western Church requires celibacy. A man cannot marry once he has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
While men called to the priesthood or deaconate are the only ones to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, the rest of us must discern our calling, our vocation, within the community of Christ. We are all called to use our time and talent in service to others- be it as a parent, a caregiver, a teacher, a committee member or as a part of a religious order.
To nurture vocations, including those of our children, we should:
- Use prayer to deepen our relationship with God and to seek help with our decisions.
- Let our children see us in prayer-not only in ordinary times, but as we seek guidance in extraordinary times.
- Be generous with our time and service to others, and to show our children that it is essential to a happy and full life.
- Live our faith everyday of the week, so that all-and especially our childrensee how our Christian values are the basis for all we do.
- Teach our children to follow Jesus Christ's path and encourage them to discern their call- be it a call to marriage, single life, religious life or the priesthood.
- Be supportive if a child or young adult speaks of a desire to be a priest, deacon or join a religious order.