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. - CCC 1536
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In following the Will of His Father, Christ called together twelve men whom He formed and appointed as Shepherds and ministers of His flock. He invested them with His authority (John 20:23), made them priests (John 17:1-17), and sent them out with the whole Church to spread the Good News of Christ (Matthew 28:18). These apostles, and their successors, laid hands upon other men, ordaining them as priests and deacons to continue the work of the Church.
Thus, the Sacrament of Holy Orders insures that "the mission entrusted by Christ to His disciples continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time" (CCC 1536). There are three degrees to this Sacrament--the episcopate (bishops), the presbyterate (priests), and the diaconate (deacons).
The Sacrament of Holy Orders conveys an indelible (unchanging) mark on the soul, configuring the one ordained for service to God's people, and conferring a gift of the Holy Spirit that "permits the exercise of sacred power which comes only from Christ Himself . . ." (CCC 1538). By virtue of this power, deacons, priests, and bishops nurture, guide, form, and animate the Church in the fulfillment of Her mission.
If you want to learn more about the ministry of deacons, click here.
If you want to learn more about the ministry of priests, click here.
Is God Calling You?
Perhaps you've felt a quiet leading during prayer, or perhaps the idea of serving as a deacon or priest fills you with excitement. Maybe the thought of becoming a deacon or priest just won't "leave you alone," no matter how much you try and drown it out. The experience of a priestly or diaconal vocation is unique for everybody. Regardless, it is a great gift both to the individual and to the whole Church. As such, it is important to spend time discerning whether this is truly where God is calling you.
If you feel like you may have a vocation to the priesthood or diaconate, the first thing you should do is bring it to prayer. Ask God to help you listen more attentively to His voice. Make prayer, especially participation in the Mass, a daily event. Also, be sure to talk with your pastor or another priest, who can help you clarify the call that you are experiencing and give you valuable insight and advice.
Another important area in this process of discernment is to discover what charisms, or spiritual gifts you have received. Each of us receives these gifts at our baptism. They are the supernatural empowerment we receive as individuals for the sake of our personal participation in the mission of Christ. Charisms are, therefore, critical signposts that can help guide us to the discovery of our vocation. If you are interested in learning more about discerning charisms, visit the Catherine of Siena Institute's website.
Finally, you should explore the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life by contacting Father Morgan, or the diocesan Vocation Office or Deacon Formation program.