by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
We come now to the last of the sacramentsHoly Orders. There
are two aspects to priesthood in our Catholic faith. Vatican II said that
each baptized person is already consecrated to be a holy priesthood (Constitution
on the Church, par 10:1). In other words, every person by his or her Baptism participates
in the priesthood of Christ. That is why Baptism is not just an initiation or sign of
membership in the Church: It is a vocation to live out the gospel values of Jesus and
to minister to others as Jesus did.
In addition, there is, for those called to ordination, the Sacrament
of Holy Ordersa ministerial priesthood though which Jesus builds up and
leads his Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1547). When
a man is ordained, the power of the Holy Spirit is conferred upon him to exercise sacred
power within the Church (CCC, #1547). However, it is essential that gospel
power is used by a priest in his role as servant. It is not to be power that is used
to lord it over others, something Jesus strongly forbade (Mt 20:25).
This sacrament has three levels. First, there is the ordination to the
permanent diaconate, which is open to all men, single or married. Those who are ordained
are called to a ministry of charity and service in the Church: to preach the gospel, to
assist, witness and bless marriages, to officiate at funerals and burial services and last,
but not least, to solemnly baptize. Deacons are custodians of the Eucharist and have special
care in bringing the Eucharist to the sick and dying. They also play major roles in a diocese
in areas of management and planning. Ordination comes only after an intense three-year
theology program. In 2005 there were 14,693 permanent deacons in the U.S., an increase
of 587 over 2004. The second kind of deacon is called transitional since these
men will make the next step to ordination to priesthood, usually within a year.
The second level of the sacrament is the ordination to priesthood and
to the ministry of presiding at Eucharist and offering Mass, administering the sacraments
(especially Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick), preaching and teaching. Diocesan
priests are ordained to work in a specific diocese and under their bishop. They promise
obedience to their bishop and pledge to be celibate. Other priests who are ordained may
be members of religious orders or institutes (Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit, etc.) These
men take the three religious vowspoverty, chastity and obedienceand are subject
to their religious superior. However, in matters of pastoral or parochial ministry, they
work for the bishop, following all the diocesan regulations and guidelines.
Finally, the fullness of the priesthood is conferred on those who are
appointed by the pope and ordained as bishop. Bishops are members of the Churchs
hierarchy, in union with the pope and the successors of the Apostles as pastors of the
Church. They have responsibility for pastoral care of the people in their dioceses and
also have collegial responsibility for the care of the universal Church. One of the key
roles of the bishop is ordination of priests and deacons.
The 2005 Catholic Almanac lists 29,483 diocesan priests, 14,729
religious priests and 19,431 parishes in the U.S. There are 14 cardinals (including those
working in Rome and retired), 48 archbishops and 373 bishops.
As in the case of marriage, the priesthood is a vocation. It is not
merely a career but a way of life (not a lifestyle) to which a
man believes he is called by God. If you ask what the most important qualities people expect,
need and want in a priest, they consistently say the following: kindness and understanding,
a sense of compassion and the ability to preach, teach and always be approachable. Come
to think of it, that sounds a lot like Jesus.
respond to Friar Jacks musings on A
Prayer to Deepen Our Union With Christ and His Saving Love.
Dear Friar Jack: Thanks so much for a deeply prayerful reflection
on the Anima Christithe best Ive ever read or heard! It is so appropriate
for us Franciscans as we approach the feast of the stigmata of our holy father, St. Francis
(Sept. 17). God bless you abundantly and grant you continued success in this special ministry. Patrick,
Dear Friar Jack: I always love to read your E-spirations.
However, this one on the Anima Christi means so much to me. It is one of my favorite
prayers that Ive been saying for a very long time. I never fail to say it after receiving
Communion, and I also say it at home. Your write up on how each line inspires you was most
beautiful. I am compiling a copy for myself to read over and over and a copy to mail to
a friend who doesnt have a computer. Thank you for inspiring all of us with your
Dear Friar Jack: Thank you for your article on Anima Christi.
In my youth I said this prayer after Communion. For some reason, I have neglected it for
many years. (I am 78.) Perhaps, as you commented, emphasis is now more on communal prayer.
Thanks for you comments and encouragement on personal prayer and for reminding me of Anima
Christi. I shall copy your article and use it during my hour of adoration before the
Blessed Sacrament. Our Church is blessed with perpetual adoration. Tony
Dear Patrick, Rose and Tonyand several others who responded
to my E-spiration on Anima Christi: It's amazing how my revisiting
this prayer from long ago struck a strong nostalgic chord in so many. I think the prayer
deserves attention in every era. As the last writer, Tony, indicated, we all seek a good
balance between the personal and communal aspects of prayer. An enlightening and captivating
article just published by St. Anthony Messenger Press (in our Eucharist: Jesus With
Us series) provides some wonderful reflections on that personal/communal balance.
I highly recommend to you this article by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. Its entitled Communion
With the Lord and the Church. May it lead you to a fuller union with Christ! Friar
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