“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 (bishop), presbyterate (priest), and diaconate (deacon).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1536).
Jesus called his first disciples at the Sea of Galilee (cf. Mk 1:16-20) and later said to them: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (Jn 15:16). Christ, the Head of the Church and Lord of all creation, continues his salvific work in our own time. The ministerial priesthood is a privileged share in his work. As the life of Christ was consecrated to the authentic proclamation of the loving will of his Father, so too the life of priests should be consecrated, in the name of Christ, to the same proclamation. The priest is called to assist the bishop in his threefold responsibility of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. The priest must be a teacher of the Word, a minister of the sacraments, and a pastor of his flock.
Pope John Paul II reminded us: “Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19) and “Do this in memory of me” (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11:24), i.e., an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world.” (Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 1).
In his 2007 World Day of Prayer for Vocations address, Pope Benedict XVI further taught: “The People of God, organically structured under the guidance of its Pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with each other, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of his passion: ‘Father…that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (Jn 17:21.). This intense communion favours the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom.” Priests are ordained to act in persona Christi, ‘in the person of Christ’, to bring Christ to others and others to Christ.
Only baptized, Catholic men are called by the Church to become ordained and receive this sacrament. The man who is ordained a bishop or a priest receives a special grace to act “in persona Christi”, not based on his own power or merit, but in the person of Jesus Christ. Deacons “share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1570) to serve as Christ served.
If you are sensing a call to serve God and others as a priest, as a teenager or young man, living a celibate life, please do approach Fr Etienne who is Assistant Vocations Director for the Diocese of Lancaster.
For more information on priestly vocations in the Diocese of Lancaster click here.