The Sacrament of Holy Orders
Just as Marriage is one particular expression of Christian vocation, so too is the choice to be ordained. This way of life is selected by many as a way of fulfilling God’s plan for them. Holy Orders is a calling to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the sacrament by which bishops, priests and deacons are ordained and receive the power and grace to perform their sacred duties. The sacred rite by which orders are conferred is called ordination. The apostles were ordained by Jesus at the Last Supper so that others could share in his priesthood. 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 ordained 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.
"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. Each level of ordination confers special graces, from the ability to baptize, granted to deacons; to the ability to act in the person of Christ to offer the Mass, granted to priests; to a special grace of strength, granted to bishops, which allows him to teach and lead his flock, even to the point of dying as Christ did.
The Ordination of Bishops:
There is only one Sacrament of Holy Orders, but there are three levels. The first is that which Christ Himself bestowed upon His Apostles: the episcopate. A bishop is a man who is ordained to the episcopate by another bishop (in practice, by several bishops). He stands in a direct, unbroken line from the Apostles, a condition known as "apostolic succession."
Ordination as a bishop confers the grace to sanctify others, as well as the authority to teach the faithful and to bind their consciences. Because of the grave nature of this responsibility, all episcopal ordinations must be approved by the Pope.
The Ordination of Priests:
The second level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is the priesthood. No bishop can minister to all of the faithful in his diocese, so priests act, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as "co-workers of the bishops." They exercise their powers lawfully only in communion with their bishop, and so they promise obedience to their bishop at the time of their ordination.
The chief duties of the priesthood are the preaching of the Gospel, the celebration of the Sacraments, and the living of authentic, Christ-like lives.
The Ordination of Deacons:
The third level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is the diaconate. Married men are allowed to become permanent deacons. Deacons assist priests and bishops by baptizing, preaching and serving the people of God in many ways.
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