The Sacrament of Apostolic ministry
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 hierarchical degrees: 1) Episcopate (Bishop), 2) Presbyterate (Priest), and 3) Diaconate (Deacon).
Jesus Christ is the High Priest, and men who receive ordination as priests share in His Priesthood. As a result of the Graces received through this Sacrament, they are configured to Christ in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). It is through the power of this priesthood that they bring the faithful the Sacraments of Reconciliation, the Eucharist, and the Anointing of the Sick. Priests are also entrusted with the ministries of preaching, teaching, and shepherding the flock in service to the Bishop.
At the lower level of the hierarchy is the Order of Deacons. The special ministry of the Deacon is first and foremost one of service. Like the priest, the deacon is imprinted through Grace with a special character which can never be removed. This configures him to Christ, who made Himself the "deacon", or servant, or all.
Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve Apostles, and the Apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The College of Bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, make 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.
discerning the priesthood?
If you or someone you know is considering the priesthood, feel free to contact one of the priests at St Patrick or at a local parish and seek their guidance. He will be able to connect you with excellent discernment groups in our area.