At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the ministerial priesthood, commanding them: “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
The ordination of deacons, priests and bishops is steeped in Church tradition and history, but many Catholics may never have seen a man be ordained.
On May 29, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock will ordain five men to the priesthood, continuing the sacrament Christ instituted. Bishop Taylor is inviting Catholics to attend the ordination Mass at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock.
In the Catholic Church, there are three types of ordinations known as the sacrament of holy orders:
• Diaconate: promises of celibacy, prayer (including to pray the Liturgy of the Hours) and obedience taken about a year before a priestly ordination. Lay married men becoming permanent deacons receive the same ordination rites without the promise of celibacy.
• Priesthood: ordained by a bishop, to minister as a priest
• Episcopal: when a priest is ordained a bishop
Similar to the marriage sacrament, an ordination is celebrated within the Mass, with the Liturgy of the Word and the Rite of Ordination, concluding with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Here are key moments of an ordination, as spelled out in The Roman Pontifical, which contains the rite of ordination:
After the Gospel reading, men seeking ordination are called forth and presented by a priest who has served actively in their formation, typically the vocations director. That priest is questioned by the bishop about the candidate's worthiness. The bishop then states, as directed by the rite of ordination, “Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these men, our brothers, for the Order of the Priesthood.” This is followed by the homily from the bishop.
The bishop asks the seminarians a series of questions, including their willingness to undertake the office of priest, exercise the ministry of the Word in preaching and teaching, celebrate the sacraments properly and faithfully, pray without ceasing, and unite daily to the “sacrifice of Christ, the High Priest, for the salvation of the world.” The men also make promises of respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors.
“I’m blessed, blessed and grateful to the one who has given me this gift, this calling.” Father Ramsés Mendieta, 2017
The seminarians prostrate themselves before the altar as the congregation sings the litany of saints, asking for their intercession to allow the elect to be worthy ministers. Lying prostrate is an act of surrender to God.
“I began to reflect on each one and how they played a part in my journey along the way.” Father Martin Siebold, 2017
These two traditions within an ordination are the moment the seminarians are officially ordained priests.
“When all of the priests were coming through and laying hands, I mean, that was heaven,” Father Keith Higginbotham, 2018
The newly ordained priests are dressed with liturgical vestments called a stole and chasuble. The priest typically asks one or two priests who have had an impact on his life to vest him.
The bishop anoints the priests’ hands with sacred chrism, signifying how their hands are set aside for the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. This oil was prepared by Bishop Taylor at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, March 29. Out of the Church’s three holy oils, chrism oil is consecrated rather than blessed. Made from olive oil and a fragrance called Laudate Chrism Essence, it is used in holy orders, baptisms, confirmations and consecrating a new church or altar. In the rite, the bishop states while anointing, “The Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, guard and preserve you, that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice to God.”
A paten holding the bread and a chalice of wine is presented to the bishop by new priests’ family members. The bishop then gives it to the new priests, stating, “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
As a fraternal sign of peace, priests in attendance line up to hug the newly ordained, welcoming them into the Order of the Presbyterate.
“To see the love and support of my brothers in the priesthood, that was the moment that I really see I have a family in them,” Father Daniel Ramos, 2018
At the end of Mass, after the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the new priests give a first blessing, typically to their immediate family in attendance.
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