“I WILL GIVE YOU SHEPHERDS AFTER MY OWN HEART” (JER. 3:15).
IN THESE WORDS FROM THE PROPHET JEREMIAH, GOD PROMISES HIS PEOPLE THAT HE WILL NEVER LEAVE THEM WITHOUT SHEPHERDS TO GATHER THEM TOGETHER AND GUIDE THEM.
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 (Bishops), presbyterate (Priesthood), and diaconate. Each of these degrees of Holy Orders is received from the Bishop at the time of ordination.
Ordination is the sacramental act, which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons. The laying of hands of the bishop on the candidate constitutes the visible sign of this ordination.
This sacrament confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a sacred power, which comes only from Christ himself through his Church. Ordination is also called consecration, especially for the order of Bishops, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his Church.
In order to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders a baptized man has to be called by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be receivedonly as an unmerited gift. Because it involves an interior motion of the Spirit in the candidate, both he and the Church need to discern if he has received the gift of a vocation to the priesthood. The actions of the candidate, his prayer life, and his obedience to authority, his love for the Church and his assent to Catholic teachings, however, objectively manifest the genuine existence of this interior motion. Therefore, the Church asks the candidate to go through a period of spiritual, pastoral, human and academic formation that generally takes place in a seminary or a house of formation so that he and his Bishop can determine the existence of a legitimate vocation to the Priesthood.