Tuesday 26 October 2021 - 14:56:37

Tuesday 05 September 2023 - 15:40:12

The Sacrament of Holy Orders

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Brief Theological Background on the Teachings of the Sacrament of Holy Orders

Holy Orders is the sacrament where a man becomes an ordained minister of the Church as a deacon, priest or bishop. In this sacrament the man receives the power and grace to perform the duties of these ordained ministries.

This sacrament is the continuation of Christ's priesthood. The man being ordained, enters Christ's priesthood in one of three ways. The man can be ordained to the episcopate (Bishop), priesthood (Priest) or diaconate (Deacon). This sacrament gives the man the grace he needs to a) offer Mass, b) celebrate the sacraments and c) to teach and care for God's people.

When the priest is ordained, he receives an increase in sanctifying grace and he also receives sacramental grace to help him perform his priestly duties. He is also given a character that allows the priest to share in the priesthood of Christ. This special character lasts forever. When a priest is ordained he is given supernatural powers to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and to forgive sins.

To become a priest, the man had to live a virtuous life, be of excellent character and be in a state of grace. The man was ordained to the priesthood when he was invited by the local bishop after he had completed the necessary studies and he could show that he had been called by God. As a priest, he became Christ's representative and, consequently, he had to be shown reverence and honour. 

The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders is the imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and the reciting of the special prayer of consecration specific for each level of ordination. The prayer calls down the Holy Spirit and the necessary gifts as required for each specific level of ordination.

The common symbols used for all three degrees are:

  1. Laying of Hands – represents calling down of the Holy Spirit and the gifts required upon the one to be ordained.
  2. Oils – The oil signifies that the one anointed has been called by God to a special purpose. 

Each level of ordination confers special graces. The effects of the Sacrament of Holy Orders are:

  1. The deacon is given the right to baptize, to preach, and to administer Holy Communion.
  2. The priest is given the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and to forgive sins.
  3. The bishop is given the power to confirm and to ordain others into the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Only the bishop has the complete fullness of the priesthood.
  4. All three levels receive the grace to be leaders within the Church.

Wednesday 17 November 2021 - 15:14:11

Bringing the Sacrament of Holy Orders to Our Lives Today as a Vital Faith Experience

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is one of the two sacraments of vocation. All people are called to a vocation and this sacrament focuses on how an adult male continues to shape his Christian life according to this call from God.1 The sacraments are firstly God's gift to us and, in this sacrament, the believer receives a renewed gift of the Spirit to live his life in response to God's invitation. The individual is called to participate in divine love and this is manifested through this sacrament as service to God, Christ, the Church community and the world.2 Consequently, the ordained minister is a gracious gift from God to the community of the faithful that he will be serving.3

As with all other sacraments, the ordained man becomes a new creation through the renewed gift of the Spirit. He becomes a new creation to serve the Church in the name of Christ.4 His mission is to build up Christ's church through proclaiming the world and celebrating the sacraments.5

The Second Vatican Council shifted the emphasis away from the priesthood as a position of power to that of service of God, to proclaim Christ's message and build communities of living faith.6 The emphasis shifted to that of 'one who is to serve'. The priest's role is to be unconditionally available to the community as the priest is a gracious gift from God to that faith community.

The renewed gift of the Spirit helps the ordained minister to proclaim the Word, officiate at liturgy, celebrate the sacraments and build and lead the community of the faithful that he is to serve.7 It is necessary for the ordained minister to live in the world so he is in contact with the world of his community, and his preaching and service is relevant to the lives of the faithful.8 Even though the priest lives in the world he cannot be of the world as he is called and sent to proclaim the message of Christ to his community.9

The ordained man can serve his community in three ways. He can serve as Bishop, Priest or as a Permanent or Transitional Deacon. A transitional deacon is a deacon on the way to becoming a priest.

Tuesday 26 October 2021 - 15:48:53

The ECSI Scales

In the next section, the Sacrament of Holy Orders will be explored in further depth by using the Melbourne Scale. 

If you wish to find out more information on the Melbourne Scale, there is a basic introduction to each of the three ECSI Scales (Post-Critical Belief, Melbourne, and Victoria) in the section 'Foundations' on the ECSI Website.

Tuesday 05 September 2023 - 15:40:12

Sacrament of Holy Orders through the lens of the Melbourne Scale

110 The priest's formal dress of the black shirt and white collar has come to be a symbol that represents clericalism. Such a priest is formal in dress and speech in order to be clearly identified as a Catholic priest. The boundaries between the Church and the surrounding world are clearly marked and such a priest is unwilling to engage with the context. The emphasis is on the traditions and practices being 'properly' taught and performed. This type of priest has a strong belief in the hierarchical structure of the Church, and he sees himself as superior to the laity.  Such a priest is pastorally inflexible and not loving in their leading in Christ.11
SUMMARY:The Reconfessional stance promotes a revival of the teachings and rituals that have been practiced in the Church over many centuries. It presents the Catholic tradition in an unchanged manner, in continuity with long held practices. This stance is not interested in dialoguing with the contemporary context as the context is there to passively receive the Catholic message. Characteristic of this stance is the emphasis on Church authority and tradition. This stance holds to the belief that an ordained man was superior to the laity and, therefore, this separated him from the laity. The role of the priest is exalted and emphasized at the expense of the laity.
212 Ten days after being elected as pope, Francis visited the Casal del Marmo youth prison during Holy Week. The young offenders were aged between 14 – 21 years old and they came from a range of different nationalities and diverse religious backgrounds. During the service, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of the young prisoners including two young women and two Muslims. The Pope said, "the person who is most high among us must be at the service of others."13 Pope Francis stated that he was following Jesus' example of serving others.
SUMMARY: This stance attempts to reinterpret the understanding of Christianity so that it is meaningful to the contemporary cultural context. The priest's role is to serve God, Christ, Church – the people of God, the community and the world. The Church is meant to be a humble servant that engages with the world rather than dismissing it. The emphasis is no longer on priest but rather the focus is on living communities of faith.14 Rather than being closed to the world, this stance acknowledges the plurality of contemporary context with an openness to dialogue with it. The priest is an instrument of Christ who is the bearer of the Christian message to the world. The priesthood should be one of love and not fear, of service and not clericalism. It embraces the need to go out and meet people, and "be shepherds living with the smell of the sheep."15
316 This image is a reference to clerical sexual abuse of children. Quoting the line from Matthew 19:14, "Suffer the little children who comes unto me" (King James Version) denotes Jesus' action of welcoming children and demonstrating the Jewish love and concern for children.17 Jesus' action illustrates that children have a central place in the life of the community. However, this image connotes that paedophile priests will make children 'suffer' physically and psychologically. This is the antithesis of Jesus' action and teaching. The selfless love taught by Jesus is distorted by the paedophile priest.
SUMMARY:The sexual abuse crisis in the Church resulted in a public outpouring, from both inside and outside the Church, of anger and distrust of the Catholic Church. It has also resulted in a loss of the Church's credibility especially when it has attempted to speak on moral issues. It has even led some to say that the priesthood is no longer necessary. In this stance, Catholic signs, symbols and rituals have disappeared or have been replaced by non-religious rituals. Some proponents who oppose the priesthood believe the Church should be placed into the hands of the laity or, for some, the death of the Catholic church.
418 This image is of a priest's stole using the common symbol of the heart for love and the scales for justice. However, there is nothing to distinguish the stole from a scarf and it is taken for granted that this symbol of the priesthood would be understood. Also, there is nothing to indicate that the love and justice symbolised are references to divine love and justice. It is implicit that this relationship would be understood.
SUMMARY: This stance is characterized by trying to link the human experience to the Christian reality. The more challenging demands of Christianity are omitted and the link to the divine is not explicit. In this case the shared experiences of love and justice are linked to the priesthood. It projects Christianity, as imaged by the priesthood, as 'doing good' by being just and loving people. Consequently, it presents a hollowed-out version of Christianity. In this example, there is no indication of what this 'love' and 'justice' truly means and the challenges that are encompassed by Christian love and justice. It is hoped that the Catholic Christian would be able to identify the relevance of these values for the Catholic lifestyle and faith.
519 One model of the Catholic church that has dominated throughout history is that of the Church as institution. The model of Church focused on the external and institutional aspects of the Church. Authority was exercised in a pyramidal way flowing down from the pope. This is implied in this image with the inclusion of the Vatican in the centre of the image. It was believed that by receiving Holy Orders, the man was exalted above the laity. This model was a Church of the Ordained at the expense of the laity. This is evident in the image as the laity are not included but rather the authority and power of the priest is highlighted through the inclusion of the seven sacraments.
SUMMARY:  This stance adheres to rituals that have been practiced by Catholics for centuries. This model of Church was used to describe the Church from Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) through to the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965). The dominant model of priesthood was one of clerical superiority, elitism and power. This model of church, which gave rise to clericalism, was condemned during the investigations into clerical sexual abuse of children. As a result, the Catholic Church was criticized for its preoccupation with safeguarding its privileges and protecting its reputation, interests and power.

Particularity of the Catholic perspective

  • The Sacrament of Holy Orders is not just about taking on a new role as a leader but also becoming a new creation to serve the Church in the name of Christ through the renewed gift of the Spirit.
  • The Sacrament of Holy Orders is not just about appointing a leader of people but also about a person being anointed to lead Christian communities by proclaiming the Word and celebrating the sacraments.
  • The Sacrament of Holy Orders is not just about leaders declaring a particular direction to follow but also about individuals being called by God and sent to proclaim Christ's message in the world.
  • The Sacrament of Holy Orders is not just about appointing someone to lead communities in meaningful rituals but also about anointing an individual to celebrate the Eucharist which is the source and summit of Christian life.
  • The Sacrament of Holy Orders is not just about appointing leaders to be served but also about anointing an individual to serve God, Christ, the Church community and the world.

Wednesday 17 November 2021 - 15:16:31

Holy Orders - Reflection & Discussion

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Discuss the following questions. The images on the Melbourne scale could be used as prompts.

1. How does this recontextualised understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Orders compare to your knowledge of the Sacrament of Holy Orders? Identify and discuss similarities and differences.
2. Looking at the current practice within your school, how does this understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Orders compare to what is taught and/or presented about the sacrament within your school? Identify and discuss similarities and differences.
3. According to your understanding of how the sacrament is taught and/or presented, where would you place some of these practices and teachings on the Melbourne scale?
4. How would you feel, as in the Buddhist tradition, if ordination to the priesthood was only for a temporary period of time after which the man would be free to leave? How would this change the understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Orders?
5. How would you feel if, in response to the shortage of priests, lay people took on the role of leading Sunday liturgies and celebrating the sacraments for their faith community?
6. Should Catholic schools address the topic of religious vocation? Should they make students aware of a religious vocation?

Tuesday 30 November 2021 - 15:32:53


  1. Lambert J. Leijssen, With the Silent Glimmer of God's Spirit: A Postmodern Look at the Sacraments, trans. Marie Baird (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2007), 91.
  2. Leijssen, With the Silent Glimmer of God's Spirit, 116.
  3. Leijssen, 104.
  4. Leijssen, 104.
  5. Leijssen, 104.
  6. Leijssen, 107.
  7. Leijssen, 104.
  8. Leijssen, 106.
  9. Leijssen, 106.
  10. Photowitch, Priest clerical collar, photograph, Dreamstime, https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-closeup-neck-priest-wearing-black-shirt-cassock-white-clerical-collar-image29871711, [accessed March 16, 2021].
  11. Richard Leonard, Hatch, Match & Dispatch: A Catholic Guide to the Sacraments (New York: Paulist Press, 2019), p. 111.
  12. Getty Images, Italy-Vatican-Pope-Prison-Easter-Holy Thursday, photograph, Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.com.au/photos/kissing-feet-pope-prison-easter-holy-thursday?family=editorial&phrase=kISSING%20FEET%20pope%20PRISON,%20EASTER,%20HOLY%20THURSDAY&sort=best [accessed October 05, 2020].
  13. Carol Glatz, "Pope washes feet of 12 young detainees to serve them 'from the heart'," National Catholic Reporter, March 28, 2013. https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-washes-feet-12-young-detainees-serve-them-heart [accessed October 05, 2020].
  14. Leijssen, 107.
  15. Carol Glatz, "Pope Francis: Priests Should Be 'Shepherds Living with the Smell of the Sheep'," The Catholic Telegraph, March 28, 2013. https://www.thecatholictelegraph.com/pope-francis-priests-should-be-shepherds-living-with-the-smell-of-the-sheep/13439 [accessed August 25, 2020].
  16. dugg simpson, d_priest suffer, 2010, photograph, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/90112214@N00/4559182834 [accessed February 15, 2021].
  17. Levine, Amy-Jill, and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds. The Jewish Annotated New Testament: New Revised Standard Version Bible Translation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  18. Stole Clipart #273531, clipart illustration, Clipart Library http://clipart-library.com/clipart/372242.htm [accessed February 15, 2021].
  19. Zatletic, Holy Orders, stained glass church window, photograph, Dreamstime , https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-holy-orders-image20486789, [accessed March 15, 2021].
  20. Vector Maniac, Colourful balloons used in dialogues in vector graphics, vector illustration, Shutterstock, https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/colorful-balloons-used-dialogues-vector-graphics-624464783 [accessed September 21, 2020].
  21. Symbols of the seven sacraments - Adobe Stock by t0m15