The Sacrament of Holy Orders
The last two sacraments are called the sacraments of service, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. They are both all about serving others. In Holy Matrimony, husband and wife receive grace from God to better serve one another and their family, to treat one another with love, kindness, compassion, and generosity, and to help one another get to heaven. In Holy Orders, deacons, priests, and bishops receive grace from God to serve the Church, the people of God, to lead people in prayer and service to God, to help people to grow in holiness, and to help people get to heaven.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders is based on apostolic succession. Each bishop alive today was ordained by another bishop, who laid hands on his head and prayed over Him, and that bishop was ordained by another bishop, going back in a line all the way to the Apostles and before through them to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gave the Apostles the authority to lead the Church, to perform the sacraments, to forgive sins, and to preach and teach in His name. They passed that authority on to their successors. Priests and deacons are ordained by bishops and receive from the bishop the right to lead prayer, administer the sacraments, give blessings, etc. When a deacon, priest, or bishop uses their authority and power in serving and leading the Church, it isn’t really their own authority and power; it’s the authority and power of Christ passed down to them through apostolic succession.
Some of the sacraments change the very soul of the person receiving them, like baptism and confirmation and Holy Orders. If you ever stop by St. Louis Cemetary No. 3, on Esplanade, just inside the front entrance is the priest’s mausoleum, where many priests of the Archdiocese of New Orleans are buried. On the font is has the inscription in Latin, “Tu es sacerdos in aeternum.” You are a priest forever. These three sacraments leave an indelible mark on the soul. They are, truly, eternal, because they connect us to Christ the High Priest, who is eternal.
The purpose of Holy Orders, of the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopacy (bishops), is to imitate Christ who “came to serve and not to be served.” We serve people by trying to help them to grow in holiness. Please pray for your clergy, deacons, priests, and bishops, that they may grow in holiness, too, so as to better help all people to grow in holiness.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.