The Sacrament of Holy Orders
Participants should be asked to read Chapter Eight of the My Catholic Worship! book prior to this meeting.
5 minutes – Gather
Snacks and informal social time as people arrive. Try to be punctual and gather everyone together no longer than 5 minutes after the scheduled starting time.
5-10 minutes – Opening prayer and Scripture
Everyone sits quietly as the leader begins with the Sign of the Cross and then invites a period of silence in the following way:
“Let us quiet ourselves as we begin this study of our glorious Catholic worship together. ‘Lord, as we sit here for a minute in silence, help each one of us to bring our own questions, concerns, fears, and joys to You. Help us, in this moment of silence, to be attentive to Your gentle voice speaking to us, directing us, and calling us to a deeper faith.'”
Take about a minute in silence with eyes closed so that each person can speak to our Lord about their own particular cares and concerns.
Leader reads the following invitation:
Let us ponder the Word of God. Let us reflect upon our own faith journey with the following questions: Do I believe? How deep is my faith? Am I open to letting God speak to me? Am I open to the Word of God and willing to let God’s truth sink in more deeply? Am I willing to let this new faith change my life?
The leader of the session prayerfully reads the following Scriptures, one at a time, pausing for about 30 seconds between each verse:
Exodus 12:3-7: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
John 20:19-23: On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Acts 6:1-7: At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Leader then says: Let us take a moment in silence to reflect upon these words. (a minute of silence)
The Leader invites everyone to pray quietly as the leader prays the following prayer out loud:
Lord our God, we thank You for those whom You have called to be Your ordained ministers. We thank You for all bishops, priests, and deacons, and we offer them to You in prayer. Please make them holy, and make them powerful instruments of Your mercy, Your compassion, and Your Truth.
Lord, when they sin, please forgive them. Help them to foster a deep relationship with You in their life of prayer. Help them to be faithful to You and to their sacred calling so that they may always live out their sacred duty.
Lord, we also pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. You said to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to Your vineyard. We do pray for more laborers so that Your people may be sanctified through their ministry.
The prayer time concludes with everyone professing the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
45-50 minutes – Discussion questions
Each person should be invited to share something or ask a question if he/she chooses to regarding the questions/discussion starters below. Go through one question at a time, and give each person an opportunity to say something if he/she chooses. Avoid having one or two persons dominate the discussion. Go around the circle and do not be afraid to share! Your insights might assist someone else in their understanding of the topics. Your question might very well be the same question someone else has. Some of the questions below will invite a personal sharing; other questions will invite you to share with others what you read in the chapter for this discussion. The goal is to share personally and to make sure that the faith of our Church is clearly expressed and understood by all.
- The first key to understanding the mission of those entrusted with the Sacrament of Holy Orders is to understand the threefold mission of Christ. Discuss this threefold mission in the following ways:
- Priests: To be a priest is to be one who offers sacrifice. Is the sacrificial nature of the priesthood properly understood? Jesus was the High Priest who offered His life as the sacrificial Victim, the Lamb of God. Discuss this priestly role of offering sacrifice. Include how it was prefigured in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
- Prophet: Jesus came not only to preach the truth, He also is considered the Truth. He is the eternal Word of God. He is the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophets. Discuss the idea that Jesus is the fullness of Truth and, thus, the final Prophet.
- King (Shepherd): The Old Testament presents us with various kings who prepared the way for divine governance. Jesus is the fulfillment of this kingly role and is the great King of kings. What does it mean to say Jesus is the King? How does He fulfill this kingly role? Is it an earthly kingship? How does He govern now and in the final age?
- In John’s Gospel (John 20:21-22) Jesus entrusts His apostles with His mission and grants them the power they need to fulfill this mission. He bestows the Holy Spirit on them and ordains them. Discuss this action and share any thoughts you might have about it.
- The Church has come to understand that Jesus instituted three orders of Holy Orders: bishops, priests, deacons. Do you understand the difference in these three levels and their varying responsibilities?
- Why is ordination entrusted only to men? Is this from God or just from the Church? Is it something that might change over time? Is it discrimination? Discuss this carefully, ending with a clear understanding of the Church’s teaching.
- Why do priests and bishop remain celibate in the Latin rite? Could this ever change? Why do the Eastern Catholic Churches have married priests? What is the benefit of celibacy?
- Do you understand the difference between religious and diocesan priests? Share thoughts and experiences on the differences in these forms of priestly ministry.
- Has anyone attended an ordination? If so, feel free to share thoughts and experiences from that ceremony.
- There appears to be a lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our day in most countries. Why do you think that is? What do we, as a Church, need to do to help foster more vocations?
20 minutes – Final Reflections and sharing
Go around and give each person an opportunity to share what might have stood out the most to them from the discussion or what left them the most confused, so as to gain further clarity or insight from others.
5 minutes – Closing prayer
Leader begins with the Sign of the Cross and invites a minute of silence with all eyes closed. Each person should reflect upon what was discussed, especially what stood out to him/her the most.
Leader then prays the following prayer:
Jesus, we thank You for Your Incarnation. We thank You for coming among us as the great Priest, Prophet, and King. And we thank You for the ways that You continue this mission of sanctifying, teaching, and leading through the ministry of Your ordained ministers. We pray for all those who are ordained. Make them holy and help them to be ministers after Your own heart.
Lord, we once again pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Give young men the courage they need to respond to Your call.
Lord, help us to always show proper love and respect to those living out their vocation to the ordained ministry. Help us to support them in their sacred calling so that they may be better instruments of Your grace to all.
Jesus, we trust in You.
Leader then invites everyone present to offer their own prayer in the following way (Note: This can be done out loud, but it might be preferable if it’s done in silence at the discretion of the leader):
Let us now each bring our own personal concerns before our Lord, trusting that He hears us and knows all we need. Let us entrust these prayers to Him with full confidence that He desires to take control.
(Take a minute of silence for each person to speak to God about their own personal needs).
Leader then invites everyone to close with the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.