THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS
"As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, 'Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men' Then they abandoned their nets and followed him" - Mk. 1:16-18"
At the beginning of His ministry, Our Lord called twelve men to follow Him and learn from and about Him. Throughout the three years they spent following Christ, living with Him, traveling with Him, sharing joys and sorrows with Him, these men were beign formed to bring His Gospel to all the ends of the earth. At the Last Supper, Jesus sacramentally ordained these men as His first priests through the washing of feet and by commissioning them to celebrate His Holy Sacrifice in memory of Him at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Through the ages since the founding of the Church, God continues to call men to follow in the footsteps of Christ and the example fo the Apostles by becoming priests. Through the Sacred Priesthood, a man is united to Christ in a unique way, changing him and giving him the power to share in Christ's ministerial priesthood. Through the anointing of the hands of a priest, the priest is given the power and authority to bring Christ into the world and onto the altar at Mass, to impart God's blessings upon the faithful, to absolve the penitent from the bondage fo sin, and to give strength and courage to the sick and suffering. It is the priest who, in the person of Christ, brings Christ to the daily lives of the faithful. His very life becomes, like Christ, a living sacrifice on behalf of the souls which God has entrusted to him, a constant giving, dying, and rising into God's glory.
In imitation of the holy women in the Sacred Scriptures and through the history of the Church, God also calls women to a life of self-giving, uniting themselves cimpletely to Him through a special calling within a religious community that works for the good of the entire Church. For some religious communities, these sisters use the gifts and talents given to them by God to benefit the Church and community in general. For other communities, the sacrificial contemplative and monastic life is a means to ensure the sanctification of the Church and the perpetuity of the Church's prayer life. Whatever the charism or way of life, these women share in a special union with God, becoming His brides, and working in a more intimate way with Him for the benefit of the Kingdom.
In addition to the Sacred Priesthood, God also calls certain men, married or single, to serve Him as a Permanent Deacon. A deacon, which is the first rank of Holy Orders, serves as a sacramental witness to the service of Christ for the Church. Through this Order, a deacon serves in various ministries with his diocese, parish, and community. He is also given the task to proclaim God through the Holy Gospel and through his preaching. He is given the authority to baptize, witness marriages, conduct funeral and burial rites, and lead the faithful in prayer.