I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you.
Through our Baptism, we are all called to participate in the priesthood of all believers, as we are all baptised “priest, prophet and king.” However, some are called to serve Jesus and the Church in a different way, through the diaconate and the priesthood. Admission to the diaconate or the priesthood is through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Those who exercise these ministries are called especially to help continue Jesus’ presence and work on earth.
Through the Rite of Ordination, candidates for Holy Orders are ordained. This means that they receive a spiritual mark, or “character,” which means that they represent Christ’s presence in the Church.
There are three levels of participation in the Sacrament of Holy Orders: as bishop, as priest (from presbyter, which is Greek for “elder”), and as deacon.
A bishop is a priest who has received the third of Holy Orders at his Episcopal Ordination. He is the head of the local Church in an area which is known as a diocese or archdiocese. In addition to his local responsibilities, he also works with the Pope to guide the direction of the Catholic Church.
Priests are ordained and serve in a variety of ways. Many are called to serve their diocese, while others join religious orders and focus on a particular mission associated with their religious community. Priests celebrate Mass, lead liturgies, preach to offer direction on following the scriptures and traditions of the Church, administer the sacraments and serve and teach those in their care.
Deacons are ordained either as transitional deacons (who are studying to be ordained to the priesthood) or permanent deacons, who will not become priests. Permanent deacon can be married men with families. It is the responsibility of deacons to serve their bishop by serving the Church’s needs, such as by proclaiming the Gospel, teaching and preaching. While they cannot celebrate Mass, they do assist in these ways and can also preside at Baptisms, Marriages and assisting the priest at liturgies.
Priests receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Rite of Ordination. The bishop lays his hands on the head of the candidate and says a prayer asking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In one part of the rite, the candidate lies in front of the altar while the Litany of the Saints is sung or recited. In another part of the rite, a priest’s hands are anointed with chrism. In the rite for a bishop, the new bishop’s head is anointed.
If you believe that you may be called to the Permanent Diaconate or to the priesthood, we would encourage you to explore this vocation! Our parish priest would be very happy to speak to you, and you can also seek advice from the Vocations Directors at the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh by clicking here.