What is ordination?
Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest or bishop and enabled to minister in Christ's name and that of the Church. There are three ordinations in the Sacrament of Holy Orders: deaconate, priesthood and episcopacy (bishop). The ordination ceremony includes various rituals that are rich in meaning and history, such as the prostration, the laying on of hands, the anointing of the hands, the giving of the chalice and patton and the sign of peace.
When the ordination actually take place?
The essential rite of the sacrament - when it takes place - is the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration. Each of the seven sacraments has matter and form. The matter for the Sacramnt of Holy Orders is the laying on of hands, and the form is the prayer of consecration. This is an ancient tradition of the Church - one that we get from the Bible.
Who can ordain priests?
Only a bishop can ordain a priest because he shares in the ministry of Jesus passed down through the Apostles.
What is the meaning of the laying on of hands?
By this ritual, the ordaining bishop and the other priests invoke the Holy Spirit to come down upon the one to be ordained, giving him a sacred character and setting him apart for ministry in the Church.
Why does the ordinand lie prostrate during the ordination?
The ordinand lies prostrate during the Litany of Saints and the prayer that follows it. It symbolizes his unworthiness for the office to be assumed and his dependence upon God and the prayers of the Christian community.
What is the meaning of the newly ordained priest receiving the stole and chasuble?
These are vestments which pertain to his office and have symbolic meaning. The stole symbolizes the authority and responsibility to serve in imitation of Christ. It reflects the line from the Scripture: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Matthew 11:30). The chasuble is the principal garment of the priest celebrating the Eucharist and is the outermost vestment.
What does the anointing of the hands signify?
Anointing with oil stems from the Old Testament and indicates that someone or something is being set apart for a sacred task or duty. The anointing of the hands signifies that the hands of the newly ordained priest are being prepared for the sacred duties and vessels which will be part of the priestly ministry - offering the bread and wine, anointing the sick and blessing people. The bishop says as he anoints the hands: "The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God."
How does one prepare for ordination to the priesthood?
A man has to engage in a challenging program of academic and spiritual formation which lasts between 6 and 7 years, and is dependent upon previous educational background. There are ordinarily three levels of seminary: high school seminary (4 years); college seminary (4-5 years); a program of Pre-Theology (2 years), and a program of Theological Studies (4 years). Some candidates have attended public universities and have completed other programs. These men are placed into formation at the appropriate level.
Semiaries address four types of formation: human, spiritual, academic & intellectual and pastoral. In addition to the academic coursework, seminarians participate in a full schedule of spiritual activities - e.g., daily Mass, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual direction and retreats. At each level of seminary training, the seminarian prepares for future pastoral ministry in various settings, such as school, religious education programs, hospitals and parishes. All of the formation takes into consideration the human person. Human growth and development is fostered by community living, workshops and other programs. The formation of future priests includes practical learning as well, including courses related to preaching, celebration of the Sacraments and pastoral counseling.
Do priests take vows?
Priests who belong to a religious order (like the Benedictines, Dominicans and Franciscans) take three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. Diocesan priests make three promises: prayer, celibacy and obedience. These promises are a part of the ordination ceremony. It is also expected that diocesan priests will lead a life of simplicity consonant with the people they serve.