Eight men will receive the sacrament of holy orders during liturgies at Rochester's Sacred Heart Cathedral during the next few weeks. On May 28 four men will be ordained transitional deacons and one will be ordained a permanent deacon. On June 4 three men will be ordained as priests of the Diocese of Rochester.
It is through the sacrament of holy orders that men become deacons, priests or bishops. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "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." Bishops are members of the episcopate, priests belong to the presbyterate and deacons (both transitional and permanent) are members of the diaconate.
"Ordination to the Diaconate and Priesthood are celebrations of great importance for the whole Church. The rites and ceremonies provide a thorough catechesis on the unity of the priesthood and the salvific ministry of those who are called, as well as the life of ordained service of a deacon," notes the section on holy orders in the updated diocesan Policies for the Administration of the Sacraments.
In Scripture, the sacrament of holy orders is referred to as "the laying on of hands," and this remains an essential element of the ordination liturgy, observed Father Peter Mottola, who was ordained in June 2013 and currently is studying canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. When a bishop lays his hands on the head of a new priest during an ordination, that new priest receives a share of the bishop's ministry, Father Mottola told the Catholic Courier.
"The bishop in turn received it through the laying on of hands from a bishop who received it from another bishop, all the way back to the apostles," Father Mottola said. "In this sacrament, priests today receive the very same gift that Jesus himself gave to his first priests: the power to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass."
Without the sacrament of holy orders, there would be no priests and no Mass, Father Mottola noted. Not only do priests offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass, he added, but they also are called to imitate Christ by making a sacrifice of themselves and putting their lives entirely at God's disposal for the good of his people.
"Also, Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive sins, and without priests we couldn't receive God's forgiveness in the way he intended," Father Mottola said.