The Celebration of Holy Orders!

Acts 13:2-3

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

The essential core of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and in the bishop's specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained".  There is something warm and human about this, and it is significant that the essence of this tradition is a gesture as much as a word.  We live in a culture that values abstraction more than reality and that sees statistics as somehow more real than the living breathing people they represent.  In a perfect counter-cultural, er, gesture the Church see to the handing down of apostolic authority, not merely through an abstraction or a by means of passing a theology quiz, but by the imposition of warm human hands, palm to pate, down through the ages.  This is in keeping with the central core of the Christian faith itself, which insists that God's ultimate revelation is not the Word made Abstraction, but the Word made flesh.  That is why the way in which Paul and Barnabas were ordained is still the way bishops, priests, and deacons are ordained today.  God still manifests his power through the hands of human beings and bestows the Holy Spirit on his priests for our good.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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