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Gen'l. Information Regarding Holy Orders

Return to Sacraments Section

Holy Orders

The Sacrament of Holy Orders

Important Notice: By using this site you indicate agreement to all terms. For more terms information, see below and click here.


"Holy Orders is a sacrament by which bishops, priests, and other ministers of the Church are ordained and receive the power and grace to perform their sacred duties." (Baltimore Catechism)

"Holy Orders is a sacrament which gives power to exercise the sacred duties connected with the worship of God and the salvation of souls, and which imprints the character of Minister of God on the soul of him who receives it." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"Such is the sacrament of Holy Orders. It is the essential means established for the salvation of mankind, the channel through which God has ordained that the infinite graces of the Incarnation should flow upon the earth, and the medium whereby is perpetuated among us the presence and action of our Redeemer." (Dom Gueranger)


The Sacrament of Holy Orders

Also Called: Sacred Ordination

"In the same way, actually that baptism is the distinctive mark of all Christians, and serves to differentiate them from those who have not been cleansed in this purifying stream and consequently are not members of Christ, the sacrament of Holy Orders sets the priest apart from the rest of the faithful who have not received this consecration. For they alone, in answer to an inward supernatural call, have entered the august ministry, where they are assigned to service in the sanctuary and become, as it were, the instruments God uses to communicate supernatural life from on high to the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Add to this...the fact that they alone have been marked with the indelible sign 'conforming' them to Christ the Priest, and that their hands alone have been consecrated 'in order that whatever they bless may be blessed, whatever they consecrate may become sacred and holy, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'" (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947 A.D.)

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Type of Sacrament

Is Sacrament Obligatory?

Recipients

Can This Sacrament Be Repeated?

When Should Sacrament Be Received?

General Prerequisites

Ministers

Form / Matter

Chief Effects

Additional Information

For More Information Regarding Holy Orders, Try...

Type of Sacrament: 'Sacrament of the Living'  (click here for more info.)

Is Sacrament Obligatory? No.

Recipients: Certain Catholic men who have been baptized & confirmed

Click Here for 'Top Reasons Why Women Can't Be Priests'

Can This Sacrament Be Repeated? No

When Should Sacrament Be Received? After appropriate preparation, according to the dictates of the Church

General Prerequisites: A divine calling, holiness, knowledge, prudence, proper intention / faith, canonical fitness / no impediments, proper preparation, maturity, specified age, state of grace, willingness to live according to all applicable dictates of the Church (e.g. celibacy/chastity)

"Can. 1029 Only those are to be promoted to orders who, in the prudent judgment of their own bishop or of the competent major superior, all things considered, have sound faith, are motivated by the right intention, have the requisite knowledge, possess a good reputation, and are endowed with integral morals and proven virtues and the other physical and psychic qualities in keeping with the order to be received." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

Ministers: Bishops

Form / Matter: Prayer, laying on of hands (by the bishop). Also, holy chrism may be used (e.g. for bishops & priests)

Chief Effects:

* Imparts an indelible character on the soul of the priest, a "spiritual character": "[T]hose who have been ordained are distinguished from the rest of the faithful by a certain interior mark impressed on the soul, by which they are dedicated to the divine worship." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* Conferral of the Holy Spirit: "If any one saith, that, by sacred ordination, the Holy Ghost is not given; and that vainly therefore do the bishops say, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; or, that a character is not imprinted by that ordination; or, that he who has once been a priest, can again become a layman; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

* The sacrament confers a twofold power: the power of orders and the power of jurisdiction: "The Church possesses and confers on her pastors the power of orders and the power of jurisdiction; that is, the power to administer the Sacraments and sanctify the faithful, and the power to teach and make laws that direct the faithful to their spiritual good. A bishop has the full power of orders and the Pope alone has the full power of jurisdiction." (Baltimore Catechism)

* The sacrament confers the power of consecrating the Eucharist, forgiving sin, administering the Sacraments, and preaching.

* The sacrament confers the power of acting 'In Persona Christi' ('In the Person of Christ').

* The sacrament imparts the grace necessary for the "due and proper discharge of office".

* "[T]he Sacrament of Orders...confers on the soul of him who is ordained the grace of sanctification, fitting and qualifying him for the proper discharge of his functions and for the administration of the Sacraments, in the same way as by the grace of Baptism each one is qualified to receive the other Sacraments." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)


Additional Information:

* All the sacraments depend upon Holy Orders: "If one attentively considers the nature and essence of the other Sacraments, it will readily be seen that they all depend on the Sacrament of Orders to such an extent that without it some of them could not be constituted or administered at all; while others would be deprived of all their solemn ceremonies, as well as of a certain part of the religious respect and exterior honor accorded to them." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* There is no more noble function than that of priest & bishop: "Bishops and priests being, as they are, God's interpreters and ambassadors, empowered in His name to teach mankind the divine law and the rules of conduct, and holding, as they do, His place on earth, it is evident that no nobler function than theirs can be imagined." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* No one has a 'right' to receive Holy Orders.

* Only Bishops have the "fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders". They are the direct successors to the apostles. Priests assist the bishops.

* The priesthood is necessary: "The Catholic Priesthood is necessary in the Church, because without it the faithful would be deprived of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and of the greater part of the sacraments; they would have no one to instruct them in the faith; and they would be as sheep without a shepherd... [I]n short, the Church, such as Christ instituted it, would no longer exist." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* Traditionally, seven orders were employed (porter, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon and priest) through which a man was raised step by step from the lower to higher orders. These orders were traditionally divided into major (or sacred), and minor orders. Note that the different orders are not different sacraments: "These different orders are not separate Sacraments. Taken all together, some are a preparation for the Sacrament and the rest are but the one Sacrament of Holy Orders; as the roots, trunk and branches form but one tree." (Baltimore Catechism) [Note: Various changes were implemented in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. However, traditional religious orders may still use these major / minor orders.]

* The priesthood was instituted at the Last Supper: "Jesus Christ instituted the Sacerdotal Order at the Last Supper when he conferred on the Apostles and their successors the power of consecrating the Blessed Eucharist. Then on the day of His resurrection He conferred on them the power of remitting and retaining sin, thus constituting them the first Priests of the New Law in all the fullness of their power." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* "[W]hile all the other Sacraments impart grace to the recipient for his own use and sanctification, he, on the other hand, who receives Holy Orders is made partaker of the heavenly grace precisely that by his ministry he may promote the welfare of the Church and therefore all of mankind." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* Priests are necessary for our salvation: "Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!" (Catechism of St. John Vianney)

* Priests have an awesome dignity and are therefore worthy of great respect: 

"The dignity of the Christian Priesthood is great indeed, because of the two-fold power which Jesus Christ has conferred upon it - that over His real Body and that over His mystical Body, or the Church; and because of the divine mission committed to priests to lead men to eternal life." (Catechism of St. Pius X) 

"If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, 'There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul.' At the sight of a church tower, you may say, 'What is there in that place?' 'The Body of Our Lord.' 'Why is He there?' 'Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass.'" (Catechism of St. John Vianney)

"It is a very grave sin, because the scorn and insults cast on Priests fall upon Jesus Christ Himself, who said to His Apostles: He who despises you, despises Me." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"In all ages, priests have been held in the highest honor; yet the priests of the New Testament far exceed all others. For the power of consecrating and offering the Body and Blood of our Lord and of forgiving sins, which has been conferred on them, not only has nothing equal or like to it on earth, but even surpasses human reason and understanding." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

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For More Information Regarding Holy Orders, Try...


Priests / Holy Orders (Topic Page)

The Catechism of the Council of Trent on Holy Orders

Selections From the Baltimore Catechism - Q & A Format! 

Tip: Select "Display by Lesson", then select lesson number corresponding to Holy Orders

Holy Orders Reflections

Priests & Vocations Reflections

Holy Orders (Topical Scripture)

Vocations (Topic Page)

Priests & Vocations Section

Priests & Vocations (Classic Encyclicals)

Catholic Men (Topic Page)

Vatican View Section

Catholic Basics  


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