Holy Orders


The Sacrament of Holy Orders

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the continuation of Christ’s priesthood, which He bestowed upon his Apostles; thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Sacrament of Holy Orders as “the sacrament of the apostolic ministry.”

“Ordination” comes from the Latin word ordinatio which means to incorporate one into an order. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a man is incorporated into the priesthood of Christ.

The priesthood was established by God among the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. God chose the tribe of Levi as priests for the nation. Their primary duties were the offering of sacrifice and prayer for the people.

Christ, in offering Himself up for the sins of all mankind, fulfilled the duties of the Old Testament priesthood once and for all. But just as the Eucharist makes that sacrifice present to us today, so the New Testament priesthood is a sharing in the eternal priesthood of Christ. While all believers are, in some sense, priests, some are set aside to serve the Church as Christ Himself did.

No bishop can minister to all of the faithful of 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 and the offering of the Eucharist.

The Western Church insists on celibacy. Once a man has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, he cannot marry unless he obtains a dispensation from the Vatican.



Jesus lived as a celibate and in this way intended to show his undivided love for God the Father. To follow Jesus’ way of life and to live in unmarried chastity “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:12) has been a sign of love, undivided devotion to the Lord, and of a complete willingness to serve, going back to the time of Jesus . Celibacy is the personal commitment of a person to live in the unmarried state for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Pope Benedict says celibacy cannot mean “remaining empty in love, but rather must mean allowing oneself to be overcome by a passion for God.” (From the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) (Youcat#258)


and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)