Why is This Sacrament Called “Orders”?

Acts 14:23

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, "The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo."  In other words, when Jesus established the Church as the Body of Christ he really meant for it to be a body, not a jelly.  Bodies have structure.  They are ordered.  And it is because they are ordered that they are free.  Jesus did not establish the Gas Cloud of Heaven but the Kingdom of Heaven.  With himself as King, he appointed apostles and gave them his authority–for our good–and said "He who listens to you listens to me." (Luke 10:16).  In the same way, his apostles appointed bishops (elders) and gave them authority to govern their communities, to give them order and therefore to give their member freedom without chaos.  Today, thank God for the order and freedom he give us through those who obey the call to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

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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