At the General Audience the Pope speaks about the Sacrament of Holy Orders
March 26, 2014
One enters the priesthood only through the Lord's initiative. “He calls each of those whom he wills to become priests”. The Sacrament of Holy Orders was the focus of Pope Francis' catechesis at the General Audience on Wednesday morning, 26 March, in St Peter's Square. The following is a translation of the Pope's address to the faithful, which was delivered in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have already had occasion to point out that the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist together constitute the mystery of “Christian initiation”, a single great event of grace that regenerates us in Christ. This is the fundamental vocation which unites everyone in the Church as disciples of the Lord Jesus. There are then two Sacraments which correspond to two specific vocations: Holy Orders and Matrimony. They constitute two great paths by which the Christian can make his life a gift of love, after the example and in the name of Christ, and thus cooperate in the building up of the Church.
Holy Orders, in its three grades of bishop, priest and deacon, is the Sacrament that enables a man to exercise the ministry which the Lord Jesus en-
1. A first aspect. Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. They are “at the head”, yes, but for Jesus this means placing ones authority at the service [of the community], as Jesus himself showed and taught his disciples with these words: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served by to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:25-
2. Another characteristic which also derives from this sacramental union with Christ is a passionate love for the Church. Let us think of that passage from the Letter to the Ephesians in which St Paul states that Christ “loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (5:25-
3. A final aspect. The Apostle Paul recommends to the disciple Timothy that he not neglect, indeed, that he always rekindle the gift that is within him. The gift that he has been given through the laying on of hands (cf. 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). When the ministry is not fostered — the ministry of the bishop, the ministry of the priest — through prayer, through listening to the Word of God, through the daily celebration of the Eucharist and also through regularly going to the Sacrament of Penance, he inevitably ends up losing sight of the authentic meaning of his own service and the joy which comes from a profound communion with Jesus.
4. The bishop who does not pray, the bishop who does not listen to the Word of God, who does not celebrate every day, who does not regularly confess — and the same is true for the priest who does not do these things — in the long run lose their union with Jesus and become so mediocre that they do not benefit the Church. That is why we must help bishops and priests to pray, to listen to the Word of God which is one’s daily nourishment, to celebrate the Eucharist each day and to confess regularly. This is so important precisely be-
5. I would like to conclude with something which comes to mind: how does one become a priest, where is access to the priesthood sold? No. It is not sold. This is an initiative which the Lord takes. The Lord calls. He calls each of those whom he wills to become priests. Perhaps there are some young men present here who have heard this call in their hearts, the aspiration to be-
I greet all the English-
I address a special thought to the young people, the sick, and newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. Dear young people, especially the scouts who are present, may you know how to listen to the will of God as Mary did; dear sick, may you not become discouraged in difficult times, knowing that the Lord never gives a cross that surpasses one’s strength; and may you, dear newlyweds, build your married life on the solid rock of God's Word.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders continues Christ's priesthood, which He bestowed upon His Apostles.
There are three levels to this sacrament: the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate.
For further information contact
Fr. Dominic Howarth 01268 553425
Brentwood Diocesan Director of Vocations