Holy Orders

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, presbyterate and diaconate.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1536)

The Sacrament of Holy Orders

The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture, has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum.

The essential rite of this sacrament for all three degrees consists in the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordained and his specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained. It is desirable that the ceremony take place within the Eucharistic liturgy and that as many of the faithful as possible take part.

In the Latin Rite the Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…
by your gracious word
you have established the plan of your Church.

From the beginning,
you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and priests
and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you…

At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:

Lord, holy Father,…
when you had appointed high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task…
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you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men.…
You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father's power.
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In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church confesses:

Almighty God…,
You make the Church, Christ's body,
grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple.
You enrich it with every kind of grace
and perfect it with a diversity of members
to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.
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You established a threefold ministry of worship and service,
for the glory of your name.
As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.

The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ's priesthood: "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers."

More information on Holy Orders

If you wish more information on the priesthood or assistance with discerning whether or not God is calling you to this vocation, contact:

Father Chris Lemieux, Vocation Director, Archdiocese of Toronto
Vocations Toronto

If you wish information concerning the Permanent Diaconate, contact:

Office of Clergy Personnel – Diaconate
1155 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4T 1W2
Tel: 416-934-3400, ext. 304
or via email at diaconate@archtoronto.org

Here are some further resources: