- “He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matthew 4:19, NAB).
- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you…” (Jeremiah 1:5, NAB).
- ‘Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.’ (St Thomas Aquinas)
Is God Calling You To The Priesthood Or Religious Life?
For some years, Diocese and our Parish has been a place where Christ’s call to follow Him has been heard and accepted. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is made up of three degrees: the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate. In the Catholic Church this sacrament can only be validly received by a baptised man who has been judged suitable for the ministry by the appropriate authorities of the Church.
Any baptised Catholic man or woman interested in finding out about the priesthood or diaconate or other religious life is advised to contact one of the Cathedral clergy or your parish priest.
All priesthood in the Church is based on the one true priest of the New Covenant – Jesus Christ. It was Jesus as priest and victim who offered his life as a sacrifice on the cross. All those who are called ‘priests’ in the Church are not priests in their own right; they share in the unique priesthood of Christ. They are called to be “alter Christus” – another Christ.
The apostles were called by Jesus to follow him, and they left everything to be with him. This ‘being with Jesus’ is always the first part of any vocation, and this is true in a special way of the call to be a priest. Only once the apostles had grown close to Our Lord did he send them out to others. The priest has to be someone whose personal, intimate friendship with Christ is the very heart of all he is and does. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the centre of his life.
A priest’s life is rooted in the Eucharist: it is there above all that Jesus is present; yet people will meet the Good Shepherd not only in the priest’s great sacramental actions but in everything he does for them and in his simple presence among them.
This is why the priest is asked to give his whole life to God, to lay down his life out of love for the Lord and his flock. A priest is asked at his ordination to make three special promises: celibacy, obedience to his bishop and simplicity of lifestyle. In this way, he lives out the demands of the Gospel quite explicitly; he is unmistakeably a man of the Church of Christ. This is his path to holiness just as marriage is the normal path to holiness for most baptised Christians. The call to chastity is part of every Christian vocation, both within marriage and within the single state, where it is known as celibacy.
Forms / Useful Information
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church – Holy Orders (on this site)
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church Online – Index
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church – Holy Orders (Vatican website)
- Religious Ministries Website
- Catholics Online Website
- The Website of the National Office for Vocation
Hear our Bishop Philip’s call to Vocations
Frequently Asked Questions
A man has to engage in a challenging program of priestly formation which lasts from five to thirteen years, depending upon his background and the seminary he attends. There are three levels of seminary: high school; college or pre-theology; and theology.
Seminaries address four types of formation: human; spiritual; academic (intellectual); and pastoral. In addition to the academic course work, seminarians participate in a full schedule of spiritual activities, e.g., daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer), and spiritual direction and retreats. At each level of seminary training, the seminarian prepares for future pastoral ministry in various settings, such as schools, 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, too, for example, preaching, saying Mass, and pastoral counseling.
The Eucharist is at the heart of the priesthood and this ritual highlights the importance of celebrating the Eucharist in the life of the priest and its meaning, as seen in the words which are spoken by the bishop: “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
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, for example, offering the bread and the 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.”
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 Scripture: “For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11:30). The chasuble is the principal garment of the priest celebrating the Eucharist and is the outermost vestment.
It symbolizes his unworthiness for the office to be assumed and his dependence upon God and the prayers of the Christian community.
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 the designated ministry.
Only a bishop can ordain a priest because he shares in the ministry of Jesus passed down through the apostles.
The essential rite of the sacrament, i.e., when it takes place, is the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration. This is an ancient tradition in the Church, mentioned in the Bible.
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 Episcopal. The ordination ceremony includes various rituals, rich in meaning and history, e.g., the prostration, laying on of hands, anointing of hands, giving of the chalice and paten, sign of peace.
The word vocation means a calling, and a calling is a proposal or initiative addressed to someone to which that someone is invited to respond.
All of us have received a vocation from God, a multifaceted calling to which we are invited to respond. God calls us out of nothingness into being. Not one of us would be here if God had not called us to be. God also calls us to faith, that is, to life in Christ. This is not something we achieve for ourselves. In fact, it is formal Church teaching that faith is a gift from god that cannot be earned or caused by us. As part of our call to faith, God calls us to eternal happiness in heaven. All this is God’s initiative, God’s call. It is all vocation. Our part is to accept or to reject, to cooperate with God’s invitation or to evade it.