The Sacrament of Holy Orders
Holy Orders is one of seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church. It 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.
Those who are called to be priests are ordained through the Rite of Ordination. There are three levels of participation in the Sacrament of Holy Orders: as Bishop, as Priest and as Deacon. Bishops and Priests are obliged to celibacy, to remain unmarried. Married men may be ordained as Deacons.
A Bishop receives the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Order and has a three-fold ministry of prophet, priest and shepherd. He is the head or Ordinary of the local church, a diocese.
Priests receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders administered by a Bishop. The Bishop lays his hands on the head of the candidate and says a prayer asking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and anoints his hands with the oil of chrism. The ordained Priest is empowered to exercise the ministry of celebrating the sacraments such as Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony and Anointing of the Sick. A Priest is a spiritual leader of the flock entrusted to his care by the bishop.
A Deacon is ordained to serve the church through ministry of word, worship, pastoral care and charity. A Deacon may baptise, preach, officiate at marriages and funerals, but cannot preside at Eucharist or give absolution. Before someone is ordained a Priest, he is first ordained to the order of Deacon. There is also what is called ‘permanent’ Deacons who have been ordained and function as Deacons. They will not be ordained to the priesthood.