What We Believe: Part 32 – The Sacrament of Holy Orders
We have seen that Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation Two other sacraments are directed towards the salvation of others, Matrimony and Holy Orders. In Matrimony, the spouses and their children are to grow as members of the Church and personally.
Holy Orders is to continue the mission entrusted to the apostles by Christ until the end of time. Bishops, priests and deacons exercise this apostolic ministry that furthers the growth of the Church.
The name of “Holy Orders” needs explanation. In Roman antiquity, the word order designated especially a civil governing body. Ordinatiio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Catholic Church, there are three such bodies: the Order of Bishops, Order of Priests; Order of Deacons. Entrance in to each of these bodies is accomplished in a rite known as ordination or consecration.
The rite itself is the Sacrament of Holy Orders which confers on a man a “sacred power” which can come only from Christ himself through his Church. In each of the three rites there is a laying on of hands by a bishop with the relevant consecratory prayer for a bishop, or priest or deacon. If for a bishop, then each assisting bishop also lays on hands, if for a priest, the other priests participating lay on their hands, but for a deacon only the bishop lays on his hands to indicate that the deacon is to serve under the direction of the bishop alone.
Since the Sacrament of Holy Orders is for the ministry and service of the Church through the bishops, priests and deacons only validly ordained bishops can confer the sacrament. Each bishop is in line of apostolic succession to the Apostles and through them to Christ. The Church confers this sacrament only on baptized men because the Church understands that Christ chose only men for the Twelve and did so deliberatedly when instituting Holy Orders as the means of developing His Church to the end of time. It relies on the Holy Spirit to save it from error.