LENT, WELL SPENT
This week in our Lent, Well Spent program, we invite you to reflect on the Sacraments at the Service of Communion — Matrimony and Holy Orders. Being of service to the communion means that Matrimony and Holy Orders are “directed towards the salvation of others” (CCC: 1534). Their purpose is to help others come to know and love God more closely.
Read Luke 15:25-32 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. With prayerful consideration in light of being called to the service of others, what message do you discern in these readings? Is there a word or image in these passages that sticks out to you? Why do you think this may be?
Join us in praying this prayer:
Christ has no body on earth now but ours
no hands but ours,
no feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which He
looks with compassion on the world;
Ours are the feet with which He walks to do good;
Ours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.
Ours are the hands, Ours are the feet,
Ours are the eyes;
We are His body.
Christ has no body on earth now but ours.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Sacraments of Holy Orders
The Sacrament of Holy Orders consecrates a man, in the tradition of the apostles, to nourish the people of God and to fulfill the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing the Body of Christ. By divine institution, the sacrament of Holy Orders establishes some among the Christian faithful as sacred ministers through an indelible character which marks them. They are consecrated and designated each according to his grade, to nourish the people of God, fulfilling in the person of Christ the Head the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing God’s people (Canon 1008).
At his Ascension, Christ commissioned the Apostles to be His ambassadors until the end of time. As his closest followers gathered around him, Jesus told them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
This commissioning, which we believe Christ gave to his eleven remaining male disciples, became the Sacrament of Holy Orders. With evidence that Christ called only male apostles to carry on his work and by the Tradition of the Church, Holy Orders is open to men only. Through this sacrament, a man receives the power to act as Christ’s representative in the world.
The Levels or Orders of the Sacrament
According to this Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Orders are defined as episcopate (bishops), presbyterate (priests) and deaconate (deacons).
Through Ordination, Priests receive the authority to forgive sins and confect (or consecrate) the Eucharist; to teach and preach the Word; to baptize; to act as the official church witness at weddings, and to anoint the sick and dying. This means that they can confer all the sacraments with the exception of Holy Orders, although Confirmation is generally reserved for the Bishop. Ordination changes a man spiritually so that he is able to act “In Persona Christi” — in the Person of Christ — in the Sacraments so as to “exercise the sacred power…which can only come from Christ” (CCC:1538). Priests assist the bishop in the governing of his diocese. They teach and preach the Gospel to God’s people and are entrusted to sustain the sacraments by which God nurtures and feeds his people.
Bishops are priests who are ordained to the level of the episcopate. They receive the fullness of Holy Orders and participate fully in Christ’s high priesthood. Bishops teach and govern the Church in union with all bishops and the pope. They confer all sacraments, and only the bishop can confer the sacrament of Holy Orders to ordain other men to share his ministry. Ultimately, Bishops are successors of the Apostles and together form an episcopal college, a permanent assembly lead by the Pope by which they carry on the work of the Apostles to continue Christ’s mission of proclaiming God’s love and mercy to the world.
From the College of Bishops, the Church has a long-standing tradition of raising certain bishops and archbishops to the College of Cardinals. Most Cardinals are either Archbishops of the largest dioceses in their countries or regions or are the heads of dicasteries (i.e., departments) of the Roman Curia (similar to cabinet members in the United States government who assist the president in governing the country). The Cardinals’ most important role is to elect a new Pope whenever the See of Saint Peter is vacant.
The Pope is a bishop who has been elected to serve as the Bishop of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Catholic Church. As the successor to Saint Peter, the Pope exercises a primacy of authority as Vicar of Christ and shepherd of the whole church. The Pope is the “perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity” among both the bishops and the faithful people of God (CCC: 882).
Deacons receive authority to serve and to witness, but not to consecrate or forgive sins. The power of the deacon is to bless and proclaim, to baptize, to witness to the Sacrament of Matrimony, to bury the dead, and to oversee works of charity. They serve the Word by preaching and teaching and they assist the priest or bishop at the altar.
Transitional Deacons refer to men preparing for ordination to the priesthood who are temporarily ordained as deacons as part of their priestly formation. Permanent Deacons are men ordained to the permanent diaconate in service to the Church.
The Magisterium—the teaching Authority of the Catholic Church
The Magisterium consists of the College of Bishops, in union with the Pope, who together faithfully guard the mysteries of faith in Christ and hand them on to the Church. The Magisterium preserves God’s people from deviations and defections of true faith so that all people may know God’s love and come to live the fullness of life. Its pastoral duty is to assist God’s people in abiding in the truth that liberates them from the bonds of sin and leads them to eternal life.
To accomplish this duty, Christ endows the pope and the bishops with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. This means that, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Pope may proclaim, by a definitive act, a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals to be unquestionably true. In addition, the Magisterium — the Pope in union with the bishops — may also declare a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed” (CCC: 891). In both instances, the people of the Church must consider such doctrine “as the teaching of Christ” and adhere to it “with the obedience of faith” (CCC: 891).
Chastity and Celibacy
Like all people, a man who chooses the vocation of ordained ministry is called to live chastely according to his state in life.
By definition, chastity is a state of having “purity in thought and act” (Miriam Webster). It means having control over one’s impulses and actions, especially in the face of temptation. Chastity also implies a sense of personal integrity and the intent to adhere to a code of moral, in this case Christian, values.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, chastity is a moral virtue; a gift from God; a grace and fruit of the Holy Spirit, by which the Spirit enables one who practices it to bring God’s loving kindness and faithfulness to his or her neighbor (CCC: 2343). Flowing from the Cardinal Virtue of temperance, chastity provides for the successful integration of sexuality in one’s life to achieve an inner unity of both body and spirit. In this way, chastity is an eminently personal task, a commitment a person makes each day, through many free decisions, to live a life of loving concern for self and others. Thus, chastity also presupposes a deep level of respect for the rights of all persons and a deepening love for the other which leads to a life of true discipleship.
Celibacy, on the other hand, is a choice to remain unmarried for the sake of God’s kingdom. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is required for Holy Orders, with one exception. Remaining unmarried enables a priest or a bishop to devote himself entirely to the service of God and God’s people. The one exception is the Permanent Diaconate. Permanent deacons may be married prior to receiving the Sacrament of Ordination. Their Sacrament of Marriage takes precedence over ordination and is respected as a beautiful gift in their lives. Once ordained, however, a permanent deacon may not receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. In this case, the Sacrament of Ordination takes precedence and celibacy is required.
- Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP, Sacraments 101: Holy Orders (what ordination means). BustedHalo.com. 8 minutes.
The Sacrament of Matrimony
From the beginning, God designed man and woman to reflect the image of the Blessed Trinity. Through the power of their mutual gift of love and their giving of themselves to each other, the man and woman are no longer two but become one. In marriage, the man and woman speak vows giving their full and free consent to enter into a covenantal relationship that establishes an intimate, mutual sharing of life and love. We use the term covenant to denote a faithful, unending love for the whole of life. In other words, the love offered and received between the man and the woman is sealed by God’s divine love for life.
The Catholic Church describes the nature of marriage to be a covenant, or loving collaboration, “by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership for the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, and which was raised to the status of a sacrament by Jesus Christ” (Canon 1055).
In marriage, the love between husband and wife reflects God’s love. They collaborate with God in the miracle of creation and accept children with joy as a gift from God. In this way, a new family, a domestic church, is established by which the spouses endeavour to help one another and their children grow in loving relationship with God and others, and ultimately, attain the glory of heaven.
Ministers of the Sacrament
The ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony are the man and woman who consent to a life-long covenant, a sacred commitment. The spouses confer the sacrament on one another when they speak their sacred vows, thus forming the covenant of marriage which is witnessed by the Church. The free consent given by the man and the woman establish the marriage, which is dissoluble until consummation, then indissoluble until death. God’s gift of his sanctifying grace in the hearts and wills of the spouses helps them to remain faithful to one another aids them in their efforts towards fidelity to this covenant.
Marriage is a practice common to all cultures in all ages. It is, therefore, something we call a natural institution, something common to all mankind. There are four elements common to natural marriage throughout history: It is a union of opposite sexes; it is a lifelong union, ending only with the death of one spouse; it is exclusive and prohibits union with any other person so long as the marriage exists; and its lifelong nature and exclusiveness are guaranteed by love (covenant).
Video Clips on Catholic Marriage
- Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP, Sacraments 101: Matrimony (Why Make it Catholic?), BustedHalo.com. 7 ½ minutes.
- Fr. Steven Bell, CSP, Sacraments 201: Matrimony (More Questions Answered), BustedHalo.com. Approximately 7 minutes.
Additional Questions for Reflection:
Consider the many ways God has blessed you and the gifts God has given to you. Why might God have entrusted these gifts to you? How might God be inviting you to share them?
Prayerfully reflect on the following:
- Do I take my God-given gifts for granted? Do I recognize that they are from God?
- Am I appreciative for all I have? How do I express my gratitude to God? In what other ways might I show my thankfulness?
- In what ways do I give myself away to others?
- Consider our belief that God wants us to be joyful. What meaning does this have in how I choose to employ my gifts?
Below are some additional Prayers for contemplating the Sacraments of Service and how God might be calling you, whatever your state or vocation in life, to serve his people:
God of the Call
God of the Call,
like the disciples who heard themselves summoned
who left their nets behind on the seashore to follow Jesus,
Let us be bold enough to do the same,
to leave behind the narrow selves
that cannot imagine we are called
to be the Body of Christ in the world.
God of surprises,
We once wondered if we’d find anotherin whose presence we could be fully ourselves.
Where would we meet?
How would we feel?
How could we be sure?
Well, you surprised us!…
Now we are very grateful
that you brought us to each other.
We celebrate you, O God,
until death do us part.
We hold fast to you, who journeys with us,
who accepts us as we are,
and shares each hope we have for our becoming,
who continuously calls us to choose love.
You, O God, are not only “other” to us,
for your Spirit is our breath,
assuring us we are never alone,
faithful to us when we call.
We believe in you and have come to know you
in the living of our lives,
in the beauty of our love,
in the holiness of our vows.
You are the Spirit of Life,
the voice that continues to speak love
and calls us to answer,
as long as we both shall live.
I can Make Life Better
We come to prayer because God is our Father
and God promised us everlasting love,
everlasting kindness and everlasting care….
I am somebody. I’m somebody special. I am God’s child.
I can change things. I can make life better for myself,
for my family, for my community, for my Church,
for my world.
I make life better when I care about somebody,
when I reach out and touch somebody
when I smile, when I say yes to life and to laughter
and to love and to hope and to joy —
even in the midst of troubles.
I make life better when I say yes to God’s will
as it manifests itself in the circumstances of my life.
And I want to say yes to God.
I want to say yes to life, yes to hope,
yes to love, yes to you, yes to eternity.
Your Heart Today
by Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ
Where there is fear I can allay,
Where there is pain I can heal,
Where there are wounds I can bind,
And hunger I can fill:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.
Where there is hate I can confront,
Where there are yokes I can release,
Where there are captives I can free
And anger I can appease:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.
When comes the day I dread
To see our broken world,
Protect me from myself grown cold
That your people I may behold.
And when I've done all that I could,
Yet, there are hearts I cannot move,
Lord, give me hope,
That I may be your heart today. Amen.