Among the virtues that priests must possess for their sacred ministry none is so important as a frame of mind and soul whereby they are always ready to know and do the will of him who sent them and not their own will. The divine task that they are called by the Holy Spirit to fulfill surpasses all human wisdom and human ability. ‘God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the strong’ (1 Cor 1:27). Aware of his own weakness, the true minister of Christ works in humility trying to do what is pleasing to God. (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 15)
Holy Orders is one of the seven sacraments. There are three orders; the order of diaconate, of priests and of bishops. These are the only three orders in the hierarchy of the Church. These can be classified as sacraments of service. As it is stated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Holy orders is the Sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church.”
Why is it called orders? Because by going through the rite of ordination, the person is incorporated into an order, that is to say the order of bishops, the order of priests, and the order of deacons. Thus they are called to do the ministry or service that pertains to that order.
Deacons are called to ministry in the Church, in general, as a ministry of service, and in particular, they assist the bishop at the altar; they, as well, help the priest at the parish level. Their liturgical duties are, to proclaim the Gospel, to read the intentions of the prayers of the faithful, at times they may preach, they can celebrate baptisms and bless marriages. A man preparing for the priesthood, goes through the order of deacons for a period of time, and that is why is called transitional diaconate. A married man can receive the order of deaconate, without the intention of becoming a priest, and this is called permanent diaconate.
A priest is ordained to be an aid to the bishop in the ministry of being pastor of a particular community or parish. This ministry is mainly of being an instrument for the sanctification of the people by his ministry of priest, teacher and pastor.
The bishop is called and ordained to be a successor of the apostles, and his main mission is to be the pastor of a local church called diocese. The bishop is the head leader for the sanctification, evangelization, teacher and pastor of the whole diocese.
For more information on the priesthood and consecrated life, please visit the Vocations Office webpage.
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Archdiocesan Vocation Office
2600 W. Woodlawn Ave., San Antonio, TX 78228