Lesson 35 – Holy Orders

Holy Orders

(Men, Not Angels)




Peace be to you.

Government of the church,

May I tell you a story about a bishop and a priest, because these stories might be a very fitting introduction to a sacrament that has to do with the government of the church, namely Holy Orders.


The Bishop’s Story

This first story I am familiar with because it was told to me by a fellow prisoner of the bishop.  This good bishop was put into a communist prison in China and through persecutions and beatings his weight fell to about 90 pounds.  Covered with vermin, prison sores, wearing a black stocking cap and a black kimono he was unable to walk by himself. He always had to be supported by two fellow Chinese prisoners. Providentially, however, he was the only one in prison that was ever given bread and wine. The Communists did not know why they gave it to him but at any rate he had it.  If they knew that he was going to read Mass with the bread and wine they certainly would never have given it to him. And this person in prison with him told me that no Mass in a Gothic cathedral with all the pomp and splendor of liturgy could ever equal the beauty of that Mass that was said by the bishop as he leaned against the prison wall with a tin tray before him, moving his fingers, saying over the bread, “This is my Body.”  And over the wine, “This is my Blood.”  Then secretly afterwards passing out communion to those who shared his faith.


He was put in the death march and later on he perished and the communist Colonel who was in charge of the march put a sack around his neck.  It weighed about 30 pounds.  It was so tied that as he marched the rope would gradually tighten, the sack would become heavier and the bishop would eventually be choked to death.  As the march began this fellow prisoner told me that he broke ranks and went up to the communist Colonel and shouted at him, “Don’t do that! Look at the man.”  It was a kind of an ecce homo.  The communist Colonel looked at him as if for the first time in his life he really saw suffering and then he said to the one who interrupted him, “Get back in line you dog.”  The death march began and this friend of mine who told me this narrative said that he tried to peer through the marching lines of the prisoners to see if he could catch a sight of the bishop supported by two fellow Chinese prisoners.  After about a mile he saw him.  The bishop was still standing but the sack was not on his back.  The sack was on the back of the communist Colonel. I asked, “What happened?”  He said, “The communist Colonel put it on his own back.”  And why?  He said, “I think he was edified by the patience and resignation of the good bishop.”  In any case the communist was arrested for having done that service and the last we heard of him was that he was in prison.


The other story is about a priest.

The communist told this priest to strip himself.  He stripped himself to a point where he had left only his shoes and stockings.  They started beating him about the head and the body with rods. He leaned over and began taking off his shoes and stockings and they said, “Leave them on.  Why do you want to take them off?”  He said, “Because I want to die like our Lord.”


Where do bishops and priest come from? 

They come from a sacrament.

It will be recalled that there are two social sacraments:

Matrimony and Holy Orders.



  • In the natural order man and woman propagate the human species.
  • God has elevated this to a sacrament, Matrimony.

In the natural order, too, there must be government.

Holy Orders

  • In the Divine Supernatural order in the Mystical Body of Christ there must be government and the sacrament of government of the Mystical Body is Holy Orders.
  • In this government there are degrees, there’s order, there is hierarchy and the division of these orders is principally three: Deaconship, Priesthood and Episcopacy.


Our blessed Lord therefore at the night of the last supper and all during his public life, as a matter of fact, shows human instruments to mediate between himself and the world. Scriptures says they are to be the ministers and dispensers of the mysteries of God  (2 Corinthians 3:6) and again in the Epistle of the Hebrews we read, “The purpose for which any high priest is chosen from among his fellow men and made a representative of men in their dealings with God is to offer gifts and sacrifices in expiation for their sins.” (Hebrews 5:1)


But inasmuch as we are dispensers of the great Mysteries of God why did he not choose angel?  

Well because sympathy, compassion and suffering together with one who has already suffered would be lacking to an angel.  An angel would not have that common denominator.

  • Is not this the whole principal of the incarnation? Did not our Lord come down, take upon himself our human nature, become a kind of a slave and as scripture said, “In order that he might have compassion on us, share our woes, share our wounds.” (Hebrews 4:15)


  • No one from that point on could ever say that God does not know what it is to be human. Even the very one thing that was lacking in his nature, namely, the quality of femininity he compensated for by calling Mary to suffer alongside of Him, or rather at the foot of His Cross in his Passion.


So, our Lord therefore was able to lay hold of us simply because he shared something in common with us.  That is why God chose us, weak creatures. So, God chose us poor, weak creatures therefore as Cardinal Newman has put it, “For the sake of those with whom we deal.”


  • He has sent forth for the ministry of reconciliation not angels, but men.
  • He has sent forth your brethren to you, not beings of some unknown nature in some strange blood but of your own bone, your own flesh to preach to you.


It is your brethren that he has appointed, no one else. 

*Sons of Adam,

*Sons of your nature, the same by nature differing only in Grace and in Power.

  • Men like you, exposed to temptations, to the same temptations, to the same warfare within and without, with the same three deadly enemies the world, the flesh, and the devil, with the same human, the same wayward heart, differing only as the Power of God has changed and rules it.
  • So, it is therefore, we are not angels from heaven to speak to you but men whom Grace, and Grace alone, has made to differ from you.

What a strange anomaly this is, all is perfect, all is Heavenly, all is Glorious, in the dispensation which Christ has vowed safe to us except the persons of his ministry, His priest. He dwells in our altar, the Most Holy, the Most High, the angels falls down before Him. And yet the priest so set apart so consecrated lay with their girdle of celibacy and their manifold of sorrow are sons of Adam, sons of sinners of a fallen nature as they have not put off, though it is renewed through Grace.




Every priest is a kind of a mediator between God and man.

  • Bringing God to man and man to God.

This is the way he continues the priesthood of our blessed Lord.

  • Our Lord was not a priest because he was eternally begotten by the Father.
  • Our Lord was a priest because he had a human nature which he could offer up for our salvation and so, we too, continuing that priesthood, are something like Jacob’s ladder, reaches up to the Heavens and yet at the same time it is placed on the earth.
  • Therefore, every priest is a kind of another Christ, having vertical relations to Christ in Heaven and horizontal relations to men on earth.


First a word about Bishops:

Bishops are the successors of the apostles.  When one reads sacred scripture, one fines our blessed Lord giving them many powers.

  • Our Lord for example said that like Him they are the light of the world,
  • like Him they are the shepherds of Christian people,
  • like Him they are door through which the flock will enter into the Holy City.

A bishop is consecrated not just primarily for a diocese.  He is consecrated primarily for the world because our Lord said to his apostles, “Go ye into the world.”  (Mark 16:15)

It is only for jurisdictional reasons that a bishop has a diocese.

  • But his primary responsibility is the world itself.

Therefore, the missions of the Church are not foundlings on the doorsteps of a chancery office.


All peoples of the world weigh upon his heart.

What would you think, for example, of a person that was so very much concerned with his own heart that he tied a tourniquet around his arms and also around his legs and if you were asked the reason for doing so he might say, “Well I find that my blood is going out to the extremities of my body, it is rather wasting its strength and therefore since I want to preserve my strength I am going to keep all the blood in my heart and near it.”  After a while the heart would not function.

So too if a bishop cuts himself off from the extremities of the Mystical Body of Christ from Africa and Asia and Latin America, speaking here of a bishop of the United States.  Why his own diocese, his own episcopacy would suffer.


  • The right and left side of the heart have no communion directly with one another.  They have communion only because the blood passes through one side of the heart traverses the entire body and then comes up to the other side.


So too every bishop, every diocese and every parish has communion with itself only inasmuch as it has communion with the entire Mystical Body of Christ.


Whence comes this call to the priesthood and to Holy Orders.

Sacred scripture tells us that we must be called by God as Aaron was.  No one takes this office unto himself.  As we said before, God does not always choose the best.  St. Paul says, “Not many wise, not many noble.”  (1 Corinthians 1:26)

Because the Power is actually not in us, the Power is in Christ.  That is why he can choose and that is why He calls weak vessels, frail earthenware to the bearers of His Treasure.


Now this vocation comes to us as rather silent for the most part.

God never comes down and shakes our bed and says to us, “Come on, get up, I want you to be a priest.”  It is rather a long persistent calling.

I can never remember a moment in my own life for example when I did not want to be a priest.  That was the prayer of my first communion, that I would be a priest.  But all the time that I was studying for it, I always felt very unworthy of it and I feel more unworthy now. 

  • After all, the more we bring a painting to the sunlight the more the imperfections are revealed and the closer we look at ourselves in the Light of the Great High Priest whom we are to represent, the more foul we see ourselves.

We see the Treasures that God has put into our hands and the very little interest that we have drawn, frightened me.


Each and every one of us is something like Simon Peter.  

Remember Simon was the name that he had from his family.  Peter was the name that our blessed Lord gave him.

  • So in each and every one of us priest there is this double nature.
  • There is this Simon nature. That nature that we derive from our parents, our poor, weak, human body and mind and will. This is what God uses.
  • Then on the other hand there is the Peter nature, a call from God. The infusion of Divine Power is to forgive sins.

To be a priest to renew the Sacrifice of Calvary and, all the while, we feel our great Powers, we feel our great weaknesses.

We hope that people realize the Simon nature in us must not blind them to the Peter Power.


It is interesting also to recall of St. Peter at the end of his life changed and became more humble. 

In the first epistle that he wrote just a few years before his death he began his epistle by calling himself “Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 1:1)  The last epistle written very shortly before his death began “Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.”   (2 Peter 1:1)

See how at the end of his life he came back to his poor, weak Simon nature and united in both his priesthood and his episcopacy.  The union of the human and of the divine and ended by calling himself “servant.”

That’s who we are, servants of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. 

Our service is in our Jewish wandering.

  • It involves labor not only in the field during the daytime but also serving at night. There is no such thing as saying at the end of day, “Well I’ve done my duty for the day.”
  • Rather our Lord said we have to call ourselves unprofitable servants. (Luke 17:10)
  • As a matter of fact, the less there is of self-satisfaction in our lives the more zeal there is in his service.

If we count the converts that we have made we are very likely to begin by thinking that we made them instead of our Lord himself.  We cannot say, “I built three rectories, now the bishop ought to make me a monsignor.”  He still has to keep in his mind that he is unprofitable servant.

  • Labor union rules are not sufficient for us. We belong to a different union where Love, not hours is the standard. When we think of all that our Lord has done for us we really can ever do enough.


The word enough does not exist in Love’s vocabulary.

  • It is very much like telling a mother who has spent all night alongside of the bed of her sick child that she has done enough.

Oh yes, we know we are called the ambassadors of Christ, but we are also to be the victims of Christ.  We know very well that our blessed Lord refused to distinguish between work and extra work, between being on duty and standing by, between walking one mile and another mile, between giving our coat and giving our cloak.

  • No airs of self-complacency are divinely permitted.
  • No self-pity, no pluming ourselves on our administrative talent.

We are worthless servants when we have done our best.  To our dear Lord alone belongs the merit and the glory of our services.  To us belongs nothing but the gratitude and humility of being pardoned rebels.


To sum it all up:

To sum it all up on the one hand we are the Ambassadors of Christ, we are the channels of His Power and our principle and great act of course is Holy Mass.

  • When we read the Mass we, as it were, go to the hill of Calvary and with a giant hand take the Cross with our blessed Lord upon it, lift it out of that locale and then plant it down in Paris, Cairo and Tokyo and in the poorest mission of the world.


  • This is our work to extend Christ’s forgiveness of our sins, to give his blessings with our poor hands and to see ourselves everyday we mount the altar wearing our chasuble as hanging on to that chasuble the millions and millions of souls in the world who know not Christ himself and when we take a Host into our hands we have to see our fingers gnarled from slavery in the salt mines of Siberia and we have to see our feet as bleeding feet of refugees tramping westward towards barbed wire beyond which lies freedom.
  • When we look at the candles we are to think of the glow of the blast furnaces tended by gaunt men who have had their very lives squeezed out of them by those who deny economic justice.


  • When our eyes look at the Host we have to see them as wet with the tears of the widow and the suffering of the orphans. And the stole that is about our shoulders, like the stole of the Old Testament priest, we see bearing the stones of the twelve tribes. We see them as living stones, the burden of all of the churches and the people of the world.


So we drag the whole humanity to the altar and there we join Heaven and earth together.

We merge our hands into Christ’s hand for He lives on to make intercession for us.


We say with Peter, I will follow thee wherever thou goest (Matthew 26:33) and yet we do not.  We see sunlit meadows and then there comes along side of those meadows our desolation, our weariness, and our loneliness.  We feel tired and our feet ache and our bodies rebel and our spirits waver and there are times that we want to sit down pluck flowers and admire the view.


We are tempted to lose patience with our Lord’s calm, slow and never faltering step. And when we stumble we are tempted to lie where we have fallen, complaining that we can not go on any further.

We tell ourselves that we were not meant to be saints and yet we know that we are.  Pray for us!

1. In today’s lesson on – Sacrament of Holy Orders- what stood out the most to you?


2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “Men, Not Angels” to this lesson?



3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of Sacrament of Holy Orders?



4. Now that you have learned more about – Sacrament of Holy Orders
– what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?


1533. “Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ’s disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world. They confer the graces needed for the life according to the Spirit during this life as pilgrims on the march towards the homeland. ”
1534. “Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God. ”
1535. “Through these sacraments those already consecrated by Baptism and Confirmation[Cf. LG 10.] for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive particular consecrations. Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are consecrated in Christ’s name ‘to feed the Church by the word and grace of God.'[LG 11 # 2.] On their part, ‘Christian spouses are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament.'[GS 48 # 2.]”
1536. “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: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.
(On the institution and mission of the apostolic ministry by Christ, see above, no. 874 ff. Here only the sacramental means by which this ministry is handed on will be treated.) ”

1537. “The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture,[Cf. Heb 5:6 ; Heb 7:11 ; Ps 110:4 .] has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,…. ”
1538. “Integration into one of these bodies in the Church was accomplished by a rite called ordinatio, a religious and liturgical act which was a consecration, a blessing or a sacrament. Today the word ‘ordination’ is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a ‘sacred power’ (sacra potestas)[Cf. LG 10.] which can come only from Christ himself through his Church. Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his Church. The laying on of hands by the bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible sign of this ordination.”
The priesthood of the Old Covenant
1539. “The chosen people was constituted by God as ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'[Ex 19:6 ; cf. Isa 61:6 .] But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance.[Cf. Num 1:48-53 ; Josh 13:33 .] A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are ‘appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.'[Heb 5:1 ; cf. Ex 29:1-30 ; Lev 8.]”
1540. “Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer,[Cf. Mal 2:7-9 .] this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.[Cf. Heb 5:3 ; Heb 7:27 ; Heb 101-4 .] ”

1541. “The liturgy of the Church, however, sees in the priesthood of Aaron and the service of the Levites, as in the institution of the seventy elders,[Cf. Num 11:24-25 .] a prefiguring of the ordained ministry of the New Covenant. Thus in the Latin Rite the Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops: God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . by your gracious word you have established the plan of your Church. From the beginning, you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation. You established rulers and priests and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you….[Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration.] ”
1542. “At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:
Lord, holy Father, . . . when you had appointed high priests to rule your people, you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity to be with them and to help them in their task….
you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men…. You shared among the sons of Aaron the fullness of their father’s power.[Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Priests 22, Prayer of Consecration.] ”
1543. “In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church confesses:
Almighty God . . .. You make the Church, Christ’s body, grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple. You enrich it with every kind of grace and perfect it with a diversity of members to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.
You established a threefold ministry of worship and service, for the glory of your name. As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.[Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Deacons 21, Prayer of Consecration.] ”

The one priesthood of Christ
1544. “Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the ‘one mediator between God and men.'[2 Tim 2:5 .] The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, ‘priest of God Most High,’ as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique ‘high priest after the order of Melchizedek’;[Heb 5:10 ; cf. Heb 6:20 ; Gen 14:18 .] ‘holy, blameless, unstained,'[Heb 7:26 .] ‘by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,'[Heb 10:14 .] that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.”
1545. “The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood: ‘Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.'[St. Thomas Aquinas, Hebr. 8, 4.]”
Two participations in the one priesthood of Christ
1546. “Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church ‘a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.'[Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5, 9 .] The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are ‘consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood.'[LG 10 # 1.]”
1547. “The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, ‘each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.’ While being ‘ordered one to another,’ they differ essentially.[LG 10 # 2.] In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace-a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit-,the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.”
In the person of Christ the Head . . .
1548. “In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:[Cf. LG 10; 28; SC 33; CD 11; PO 2; 6.]
It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).[Pius XII, encyclical, Mediator Dei: AAS, 39 (1947) 548.]
Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 22, 4c.] ”
1549. “Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers.[Cf. LG 21.] In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3, 1: SCh 10, 96; cf. Ad Magn. 6, 1: SCh 10, 82-84.] ”
1550. “This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church. ”
1551. “This priesthood is ministerial. ‘That office . . . which the Lord committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of the term a service.'[LG 24.] It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It depends entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood; it has been instituted for the good of men and the communion of the Church. The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a ‘sacred power’ which is none other than that of Christ. The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all.[Cf. Mk 10 43-45 ; 1 Pet 5:3 .] ‘The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him.'[St. John Chrysostom, De sac. 2, 4: PG 48, 636; cf. Jn 21:15-17 .]”
. . . “in the name of the whole Church”
1552. “The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ – Head of the Church – before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice.[Cf. SC 33N; LG 10.] ”
1553. “‘In the name of the whole Church’ does not mean that priests are the delegates of the community. The prayer and offering of the Church are inseparable from the prayer and offering of Christ, her head; it is always the case that Christ worships in and through his Church. The whole Church, the Body of Christ, prays and offers herself ‘through him, with him, in him,’ in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. The whole Body, caput et membra, prays and offers itself, and therefore those who in the Body are especially his ministers are called ministers not only of Christ, but also of the Church. It is because the ministerial priesthood represents Christ that it can represent the Church.”
1554. “‘The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons.'[LG 28.] Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, the Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate . The diaconate is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called ‘ordination,’ that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders:
Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1: SCh 10, 96.]”

Episcopal ordination- fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders
1555. “‘Amongst those various offices which have been exercised in the Church from the earliest times the chief place, according to the witness of tradition, is held by the function of those who, through their appointment to the dignity and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue consequently of the unbroken succession going back to the beginning, are regarded as transmitters of the apostolic line.'[LG 20.]”
1556. “To fulfil their exalted mission, ‘the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.'[LG 21; Cf. Acts 1:8 ; Acts 24 ; Jn 20:22-23 ; 1 Tim 4:14 ; 2 Tim 1:6-7 .]”
1557. “The Second Vatican Council ‘teaches . . . that the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, that fullness namely which, both in the liturgical tradition of the Church and the language of the Fathers of the Church, is called the high priesthood, the acme (summa) of the sacred ministry.'[LG 21 # 2.]”
1558. “‘Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling…. In fact … by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative (in Eius persona agant).'[LG 21.] ‘By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors.'[CD 2 # 2.]”
1559. “‘One is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the sacramental consecration and by the hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college.'[LG 22.] The character and collegial nature of the episcopal order are evidenced among other ways by the Church’s ancient practice which calls for several bishops to participate in the consecration of a new bishop.[Cf. LG 22.] In our day, the lawful ordination of a bishop requires a special intervention of the Bishop of Rome, because he is the supreme visible bond of the communion of the particular Churches in the one Church and the guarantor of their freedom.”
1560. “As Christ’s vicar, each bishop has the pastoral care of the particular Church entrusted to him, but at the same time he bears collegially with all his brothers in the episcopacy the solicitude for all the Churches: ‘Though each bishop is the lawful pastor only of the portion of the flock entrusted to his care, as a legitimate successor of the apostles he is, by divine institution and precept, responsible with the other bishops for the apostolic mission of the Church.'[Pius XII, Fidei donum: AAS 49 (1957) 237; cf. LG 23; CD 4; 36; 37; AG 5; 6; 38.]”
1561. “The above considerations explain why the Eucharist celebrated by the bishop has a quite special significance as an expression of the Church gathered around the altar, with the one who represents Christ, the Good Shepherd and Head of his Church, presiding.[Cf. SC 41; LG 26.] ”

The ordination of priests – co-workers of the bishops
1562. “‘Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has, through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers in his consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted in varying degrees various members of the Church with the office of their ministry.'[LG 28; cf. Jn 10:36 .] ‘The function of the bishops’ ministry was handed over in a subordinate degree to priests so that they might be appointed in the order of the priesthood and be co- workers of the episcapal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ.'[PO 2 # 2.]”

1563. “‘Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and rules his Body. Hence the priesthood of priests, while presupposing the sacraments of initiation, is nevertheless conferred by its own particular sacrament. Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head.'[PO 2.]”

1564. “‘Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.'[LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10 ; Heb 7:24 ; Heb 9:11-28 ; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium: PL 20, 554 A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2, 22: PG 35, 432B.]”

1565. “Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, ‘but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation ‘to the end of the earth,”[PO 10; OT 20; cf. Acts 1:8 .] ‘prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.'[OT 20.]”
1566. “‘It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful (synaxis) that they exercise in a supreme degree their sacred office; there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father.'[LG 28; cf. 1 Cor 11:26 .] From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly ministry draws its strength.[Cf. PO 2.]”
1567. “‘The priests, prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its support and instrument, called to the service of the People of God, constitute, together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college (presbyterium) dedicated, it is, true to a variety of distinct duties. In each local assembly of the faithful they represent, in a certain sense, the bishop, with whom they are associated in all trust and generosity; in part they take upon themselves his duties and solicitude and in their daily toils discharge them.'[LG 28 # 2.] priests can exercise their ministry only in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him. The promise of obedience they make to the bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss of peace from him at the end of the ordination liturgy mean that the bishop considers them his co-workers, his sons, his brothers and his friends, and that they in return owe him love and obedience.”
1568. “‘All priests, who are constituted in the order of priesthood by the sacrament of Order, are bound together by an intimate sacramental brotherhood, but in a special way they form one priestly body in the diocese to which they are attached under their own bishop. . ;'[PO 8.] The unity of the presbyterium finds liturgical expression in the custom of the presbyters’ imposing hands, after the bishop, during the Ate of ordination.”

The ordination of deacons – “in order to serve”
1569. “‘At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry.”[LG 29; cf. CD 15.] At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon’s special attachment to the bishop in the tasks of his ‘diakonia.'[Cf. St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 8: SCh 11, 58-62.]”
1570. “Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way.[Cf. LG 41; AA 16.] The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (‘character’) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all.[Cf. Mk 10:45 ; Lk 22:27 ; St. Polycarp, Ad Phil. 5, 2: SCh 10, 182.] Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.[Cf. LG 29; SC 35 # 4; AG 16.]”
1571. “Since the Second Vatican Council the Latin Church has restored the diaconate ‘as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy,'[LG 29 # 2.] while the Churches of the East had always maintained it. This permanent diaconate, which can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment for the Church’s mission. Indeed it is appropriate and useful that men who carry out a truly diaconal ministry in the Church, whether in its liturgical and pastoral life or whether in its social and charitable works, should ‘be strengthened by the imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles. They would be more closely bound to the altar and their ministry would be made more fruitful through the sacramental grace of the diaconate.'[AG 16 # 6.]”

1572. “Given the importance that the ordination of a bishop, a priest, or a deacon has for the life of the particular Church, its celebration calls for as many of the faithful as possible to take part. It should take place preferably on Sunday, in the cathedral, with solemnity appropriate to the occasion. All three ordinations, of the bishop, of the pRiest, and of the deacon, follow the same movement. Their proper place is within the Eucharistic liturgy. ”
1573. “The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders for all three degrees consists in the bishop’s imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and in the bishop’s specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained.[Cf. Pius XII, apostolic constitution, Sacramentum Ordinis: DS 3858.] ”
1574. “As in all the sacraments additional rites surround the celebration. Varying greatly among the different liturgical traditions, these rites have in common the expression of the multiple aspects of sacramental grace. Thus in the Latin Church, the initial rites – presentation and election of the ordinand, instruction by the bishop, examination of the candidate, litany of the saints – attest that the choice of the candidate is made in keeping with the practice of the Church and prepare for the solemn act of consecration, after which several rites syrnbolically express and complete the mystery accomplished: for bishop and priest, an anointing with holy chrism, a sign of the special anointing of the Holy Spirit who makes their ministry fruitful; giving the book of the Gospels, the ring, the miter, and the crosier to the bishop as the sign of his apostolic mission to proclaim the Word of God, of his fidelity to the Church, the bride of Christ, and his office as shepherd of the Lord’s flock; presentation to the priest of the paten and chalice, ‘the offering of the holy people’ which he is called to present to God; giving the book of the Gospels to the deacon who has just received the mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.”
1575. “Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his mission and authority. Raised to the Father’s right hand, he has not forsaken his flock but he keeps it under his constant protection through the apostles, and guides it still through these same pastors who continue his work today.[Cf. Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.] Thus, it is Christ whose gift it is that some be apostles, others pastors. He continues to act through the bishops.[Cf. LG 21; Eph 4:11 .] ”
1576. “Since the sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament of the apostolic ministry, it is for the bishops as the successors of the apostles to hand on the ‘gift of the Spirit,'[LG 21 # 2.] the ‘apostolic line.'[LG 20.] Validly ordained bishops, i.e., those who are in the line of apostolic succession, validly confer the three degrees of the sacrament of Holy Orders.[Cf. DS 794 and Cf. DS 802; CIC, can. 1012; CCEO, can. 744; 747.]”
1577. “‘Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.'[CIC, can. 1024.] The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.[Cf. Mk 3:14-19 ; Lk 6:12-16 ; 1 Tim 3:1-13 ; 2 Tim 1:6 ; Titus 1:5-9 ; St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 42, 4; 44, 3: PG 1, 292-293; 300.] The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.[Cf. John Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, declaration, Inter insigniores: AAS 69 (1977) 98-116.]”
1578. “No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.[Cf. Heb 5:4 .] Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift. ”
1579. “All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.'[Mt 19:12 .] Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to ‘the affairs of the Lord,'[1 Cor 7:32 .] they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.[Cf. PO 16.]”
1580. “In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities.[Cf. PO 16.] Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry. ”
The indelible character
1581. “This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king. ”
1582. “As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ’s office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.[Cf. Council of Trent: 1 DS 1767; LG 21; 28; 29; PO 2.] ”
1583. “It is true that someone validly ordained can, for a just reason, be discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can be forbidden to exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the strict sense,[Cf. CIC, cann. 290-293; 1336 # 1 3, 5, 1338 # 2; Council of Trent DS 1774.] because the character imprinted by ordination is for ever. The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently. ”
1584. “Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting.[Cf. Council of Trent DS 1612; DS 1154.] St. Augustine states this forcefully:
As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth…. The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.[St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 5,15: PL 35, 1422.] ”
The grace of the Holy Spirit
1585. “The grace of the Holy Spirit proper to this sacrament is configuration to Christ as Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, of whom the ordained is made a minister. ”
1586. “For the bishop, this is first of all a grace of strength (‘the governing spirit’: Prayer of Episcopal Consecration in the Latin rite):[Cf. Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration; cf. CD 13; 16.] the grace to guide and defend his Church with strength and prudence as a father and pastor, with gratuitous love for all and a preferential love for the poor, the sick, and the needy. This grace impels him to proclaim the Gospel to all, to be the model for his flock, to go before it on the way of sanctification by identifying himself in the Eucharist with Christ the priest and victim, not fearing to give his life for his sheep: Father, you know all hearts. You have chosen your servant for the office of bishop. May he be a shepherd to your holy flock, and a high priest blameless in your sight, ministering to you night and day; may he always gain the blessing of your favor and offer the gifts of your holy Church. Through the Spirit who gives the grace of high priesthood grant him the power to forgive sins as you have commanded to assign ministries as you have decreed and to loose from every bond by the authority which you gave to your apostles. May he be pleasing to you by his gentleness and purity of heart, presenting a fragrant offering to you, through Jesus Christ, your Son….[Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration; cf. St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 3: SCh ll, 44-46.]”
1587. “The spiritual gift conferred by presbyteral ordination is expressed by this prayer of the Byzantine Rite. The bishop, while laying on his hand, says among other things:
Lord, fill with the gift of the Holy Spirit him whom you have deigned to raise to the rank of the priesthood, that he may be worthy to stand without reproach before your altar to proclaim the Gospel of your kingdom, to fulfill the ministry of your word of truth, to offer you spiritual gifts and sacrifices, to renew your people by the bath of rebirth; so that he may go out to meet our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, your only Son, on the day of his second coming, and may receive from your vast goodness the recompense for a faithful administration of his order.[Byzantine Liturgy, Euchologion.] ”
1588. “With regard to deacons, ‘strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel, and of works of charity.'[LG 29.]”
1589. “Before the grandeur of the priestly grace and office, the holy doctors felt an urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole lives to him whose sacrament had made them ministers. Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as a very young priest, exclaimed:
We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. (Who then is the priest? He is) the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes.[St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2, 71, 74, 73: PG 35, 480-481.]
And the holy Cure of Ars: ‘The priest continues the work of redemption on earth…. If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love…. The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.'[St. John Vianney, quoted in B. Nodet, Jean-Marie Vianney, Cure’ d’ Ars, 100.]”


1590. “St. Paul said to his disciple Timothy: ‘I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands’ (2 Tim 1:6), and ‘If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.’ [1 Tim 3:1 .] To Titus he said: ‘This is why I left you in Crete, that you amend what was defective, and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you’ (Titus 1:5).”

1591. “The whole Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the ‘common priesthood of the faithful.’ Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community.”

1592. “The ministerial priesthood differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching (munus docendi), divine worship (munus liturgicum) and pastoral governance (munus regendi). ”

1593. “Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church [cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1.].”

1594. “The bishop receives the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates him into the episcopal college and makes him the visible head of the particular Church entrusted to him. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the authority of the Pope, successor of St. Peter. ”

1595. “Priests are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity and at the same time depend on them in the exercise of their pastoral functions; they are called to be the bishops’ prudent co-workers. They form around their bishop the presbyterium which bears responsibility with him for the particular Church. They receive from the bishop the charge of a parish community or a determinate ecclesial office. ”
1596. “Deacons are ministers ordained for tasks of service of the Church; they do not receive the ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on them important functions in the ministry of the word, divine worship, pastoral governance, and the service of charity, tasks which they must carry out under the pastoral authority of their bishop. ”
1597. “The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by the laying on of hands followed by a solemn prayer of consecration asking God to grant the ordinand the graces of the Holy Spirit required for his ministry. Ordination imprints an indelible sacramental character. ”
1598. “The Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men (viri), whose suitability for the exercise of the ministry has been duly recognized. Church authority alone has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. ”
1599. “In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for the love of God’s kingdom and the service of men. ”
1600. “It is bishops who confer the sacrament of Holy Orders in the three degrees.”

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