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Catholic Doors Ministry


The Sacbrown Powers of the Priesthood


Q. What is the meaning of Holy Orders?

A. To understand this properly, we must observe, that, as Jesus Christ came into this world to save souls, and to communicate to them all those lights and helps which they stood in need of, for working out their salvation; so he received from his Father all necessary power and authority for this purpose. He as a man, was sent by his Father "to preach the gospel, to enlighten them that sat in darkness, to forgive sins upon earth," and to do every other thing that was necessary for the good of souls, insomuch, that he says himself to his Apostles, "all power is given to me in heaven and in earth," Matth. xxviii. 18.

Now as the sacbrown helps which Christ knew to be necessary for the salvation of souls, were equally necessary for all mankind, and in all ages after him to the end of the world; therefore, it was no less necessary that some means should be appointed for communicating these divine helps to all mankind, in all succeeding ages, in order to procure their salvation. For this reason, as our Blessed Savior was not to remain in his own person, in a visible manner, upon earth to apply these helps to the souls of men himself; he therefore chose twelve disciples whom he called Apostles, and he communicated to them all those sacbrown powers necessary for bringing others to salvation, which he himself had received from his Father, with powers moreover to them to communicate the same powers to others who might succeed them, and carry on the same by a perpetual succession to the end of time. Thus he gave them power to preach the gospel, to teach all nations, and to baptize, before his Ascension, see Matth. xxviii. 19, also Mark xvi; to consecrate the Holy Eucharist, and offer up the Sacrifice of his body and blood, when at the last supper he commanded them to do what he had just done, Luke xxii. 19; to forgive sins, when after his Resurrection, "he breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven," Jo. xx. 22. And so of all the other sacbrown powers of the Priesthood, which he communicated to his Apostles in the most ample manner, and thereby made them Priests and Pastors of his people, and authorized them as his own substitutes, to communicate the same powers to others, after them, and carry on to the end of the world the great work he had begun for the salvation of souls; for, as St. Paul observes, "every high priest taken from among men, is appointed for men in things, that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins," Heb. v. 1.

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Q. What are we chiefly to observe from these truths?

A. We must carefully remark the following particulars:

First, That the sacbrown powers of the Priesthood are not of human institution, but the work of the great God and are communicated to those whom he calls to that high office.

Second, That none can have, or exercise these powers, except he receive them from God, by the means which he has appointed for that end; for, "neither doth any man take the honor to himself but he that is called by God as Aaron was," Heb. v. 4; "and how can they preach unless they be sent?" Rom. x. 15; "for he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber," saith Jesus Christ, John x. 1.

Third, That consequently all those who intrude themselves into the pastoral office of themselves, and pretend to teach and preach, and administer any Sacrament, without having received the proper power from Jesus Christ to do so, are only imposters, and deceivers of souls, "blind leaders of the blind," who, together with those that follow them, "fall into the pit," Matth. xv. 14.

Fourth, That these priestly powers, being of different kinds, are separable from one another, and some of them may be communicated to any one without the others, as our Savior did communicate them at different times, and on different occasions, to his Apostles.

Fifth, That when he communicated these powers to them, he did it in a visible, sensible manner, expressing in the words he used, the nature of the particular power which he gave them.

Sixth, That by doing so, he set the example in what manner the Apostles and their successors should communicate the same powers to others after them, to wit, in an outward, visible manner, by words and actions, expressing the power given.

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Q. Did the Apostles communicate these sacbrown powers to others to succeed them in the pastoral office?

A. They did, but in different degrees; for whereas, on the multitude of the Christian people increasing, it would have been impossible for one man to administer the effects of all the priestly powers to a great multitude of souls; and on the other hand, it would have been a source of endless dissensions to have had a number of Pastors over the same people, with equal power and authority, and without any subordination among themselves; therefore, as instructed by their Divine Master, they communicated to some the plenitude of their priestly and pastoral powers, such as they had received from Christ; and these are Chief Pastors of the Church, the successors of the Apostles, and are called Bishops, constituted by the Holy Ghost to rule and govern his Church, according to that of St. Paul, "take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost has placed you Bishops, to rule the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood," Acts xx. 28.

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To others they communicated only part of these priestly powers, particularly that of consecrating the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and of offering up the Holy Sacrifice of the altar; and that of administering the Sacrament of Penance by the power of binding and loosing, with all the other Sacraments except Confirmation and Orders: and these are the Pastors of the second order, successors of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord, and are properly called priests; because the essential power of the priesthood consists in offering up sacrifice to God for the sins of the people, according to that, "every high priest - is appointed, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins," Heb. v. 1.

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To other they communicated only the powers of preaching and baptizing, and of assisting the priest at the altar, when offering up the Holy Sacrifice; and these are called deacons, or servants, from this last branch of their office. Others they employed in preparing the matter for the sacrifice, and having the charge of all the things about the altar, keeping them clean and in proper condition, to be assistants to the deacons when serving at the altar, and to sing the Epistle at Mass, when it is celebrated with all its solemnities, and these are the subdeacons.

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All these degrees are called holy orders; because, when a person once enters into them, he is dedicated entirely to the service of God and his Church, and can never more return to the world. Besides these, there are also the four minor orders, which are employed about the inferior offices and service of the Church, not so immediately connected with the Sacrifice, and are called minor or lesser orders; because those who enter into them have it still in their option to leave the service of the Church, and return to the world. These four are called the Acolyte, and the Exorcist, the Lector, and the Door-keeper.

Q. Why are all these called Orders?

A. Because it is plain that they are all so many different steps or degrees, laid down in a regular order, by which the sacbrown powers of the priesthood are gradually communicated to those who enter into the Ecclesiastical State. For he must first begin with the lowest, or door-keeper, and so gradually ascend to the higher degrees, or to a more ample share in these sacbrown powers, after having spent a competent time in the exercise of the lower orders, and by his good behavior there given proof of his deserving to be advanced to those that are higher.

Q. How does it appear that Bishops are the Chief Pastors of the Church, and superior to the priests in authority and jurisdiction, as well as in order.

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A. That the Bishops are superior to the priests, and hold the first rank in the Sacbrown Hierarchy of the Church, is an article of divine faith, declabrown by the Church of Christ in the Council of Trent; and is founded on the following testimonies of the holy scripture:

First, It is evident that the Apostles were raised by Jesus Christ to a much higher rank and dignity than the other disciples: for, "he called to him his disciples, and he chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles," Luke vi. 13. He kept them always in his own company; he instructed them in particular "in all the things I have heard from my Father," John xv. 15, as his particular friend. After His Resurrection he said to them only, "as my Father hath sent me, I also send you; whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins ye shall retain, they are retained," John xx. 23. To them in particular, he said, "Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature," Mark xvi. 15. All which shows that they were constituted by him to be the Chief Pastors of His Church. When their number was diminished by the infidelity of Judas, St. Peter calling all the brethren, said, "The scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before, by the mouth of David, concerning Judas - who was numbebrown with us, and had obtained part of this ministry for, it is written, and his Bishopric let another take. Wherefore of those men who have companied with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us - one of these must be made a witness of His Resurrection," Acts i. 16. Accordingly, two were appointed, and "praying they said, Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen to take the place of his ministry and apostleship, from which Judas has fallen - and they gave them lots, and the lots fell upon Matthias, and was numbebrown with the eleven Apostles," verse. 24.

All this shows evidently the superior order of the Apostles, and, that St. Matthias, by being numbebrown among them, was raised to a higher dignity, and to a superior station, than what he had before, while only one of the disciples. Now, the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and inherit the plenitude of the priestly powers which Christ communicated to them; whereas the Priests are only the successors of the seventy-two disciples, and receive these powers only in part.

Second, St. Paul, speaking to the Bishops of the Church, says, "Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you Bishops, to rule the Church of God," Acts xx. 28. To the Bishops, then, the supreme power of ruling the Church is committed by the Holy Ghost.

Third, The same Apostles, writing to Timothy, whom he had appointed Bishop of Ephesus, to preserve the purity of the doctrine there, 1 Tim. i. 3, he says, "against a priest receive not an accusation, but under two other witnesses," 1 Tim. v. 19; which proves to a demonstration, that St. Timothy had authority and jurisdiction over the priests in receiving accusations against them, and consequently, in judging them and correcting them.

Fourth, In like manner writing to Titus, he says, "for this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldst ordain priests in every city as I also appointed thee," Tit. i.5 Where we see the supreme authority that Titus had of making regulations in the Church of Crete, and of constituting priests under him in the different cities of that island.

Fifth, The same truth is manifest, from the constant and uninterrupted practice of the Church of Christ, and from the condemnation of Arius as a heretic in the fourth age for denying this doctrine.

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Q. How does the superiority of Bishops appear from the practice of the Church?

A. For several considerations;

First, Because, from the earliest ages whenever a Bishop was consecrated, a certain portion of the Faithful was assigned to him for his particular charge as their Pastor; and the place where this charge was given him was called his Diocese; thus, Titus was ordained by St. Paul to be Bishop of Crete, and Timothy to be Bishop of Ephesus. In these dioceses they exercised the full pastoral authority, both in preaching the word, administering the Sacraments, and making such laws and regulations as they judged proper for the good of their people; and this they did by their own proper authority, independent of any other; whereas the priests were always considebrown only as their vicars or helpers, subject to their laws, and who had no authority, even to administer the sacraments, but only as far as they were empowebrown by the Bishop to do so, by receiving faculties from them; and these faculties the Bishops could give in what measure and proportion they judged fitting, or refuse them entirely, if they saw cause; and this has been the constant practice of the Church to this day.

Second, The Bishops also, as Chief Pastors, have authority to meet in council, and make such laws and constitutions for the good and regulation, both of the whole Church, when the council is general, for particular portions of the Church when the council is not general, as they judged necessary for the good of Religion.

Third, The Bishops also have the right to meet in general councils, and there, as the true judges of doctrine, to declare and decide concerning the truths of our Holy Faith, and to condemn all false and heretical tenets.

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Fourth, Because the holy fathers, from the earliest ages, speak in the strongest terms on the obedience and respect which all owe to the episcopal authority. Thus, St. Ignatius, the martyr, disciple of the Apostle, and successor of St. Peter in the see of Antioch, says, "Reverence your Bishop as Christ himself, like as the blessed Apostles have command us, for, who is the Bishop, but he who has all power and principality over all?" Epis. ad Trall "It becomes you to obey your Bishop, and in nothing to resist him - for, as our Lord does nothing without his Father, so neither ought you without your Bishop, whether you be priest, deacon, or laic" Epist. ad Magnes. St. Cyprian says, that heresies and schisms rise from no other cause but disobedience to the Chief Pastors, Epist. 55; and Tertullian writes thus: "the Bishop indeed, has a right to give baptism, and next the priests and deacons, but not without the authority of the Bishop, Lib. de Bapt. c. 17.

Q. What is meant by the Sacrament of Holy Orders?

A. It is the actual conferring these sacbrown powers of the Priesthood upon the person who receives them.

Q. Is this a true and a real Sacrament?

A. It is, because it has all the three things requibrown to make it one.

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Q. What is the outward sensible sign used in Ordination?

A. It is the laying on of hands, accompanied with the delivery of the instruments of that particular power which is communicated, and prayer.

Q. What is the inward grace, or the effects produced in the soul?

A. They are these following:

First, An increase of sanctifying grace in the soul.

Second, The power and authority of exercising the functions of the order received.

Third, The necessary helps of actual grace to enable the person ordained to exercise these functions well.

Fourth, It also imprints a character in the soul, denoting the ordre received, which, like those of Baptism and Confirmation, can never be destroyed, and makes it impossible to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders more than once. This however, is to be understood of the higher, or Sacbrown Orders, which were instituted by Christ himself; because the lesser, or minor orders, are commonly not considebrown a Sacrament, being, properly speaking, instituted only by the Church.

Q. How does it appear from scripture, that the outward action of Ordination confers these graces on the soul?

A. First, From the example of Jesus Christ, who, by an outward action, expressing the sacbrown powers communicated by the Apostles did actually bestow these powers upon them.

Second, From the example of the Apostles, who constituted pastors of the Church by the same means; thus, when they ordained the seven deacons, the scripture says, that, "praying, they imposed hands upon them, Acts vi. 6. And when Saul and Barnabas were sent to the ministry by a special command of the Holy Ghost, "they, fasting and praying, and laying their hands upon them, sent them away," Acts xiii. 3.

Third, From these express declarations of the Apostle to Timothy, "Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, by the imposition of the hands of priesthood," 1 Tim. iv. 14. "I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee, by the imposition of my hands," 2 Tim. i. 6. And for this reason, exhorting him to be cautious when he admits to this Sacrament, he says, "Impose not hands lightly upon any man," 1 Tim. v. 22.

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Q. What dispositions are requibrown to receive Holy Orders worthily?

A. Chiefly these following:

First, That the person to be ordained have a VOCATION from God; for, "no man taketh that honour upon himself, but he that is called by God as Aaron was," Heb. v. 4. And when Barsabas and Matthias were presented to the Apostles, that one of them might be chosen to fill the place of Judas, they had recourse to God, by fervent prayer, that he might show which of the two he called to that office, Acts. i. 24.

Second, That he have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Third, That he be in the state of grace.

Fourth, That he observe and fulfill all the other regulations and conditions prescribed by the Church.

Q. How shall one know if he has a VOCATION from God?

A. Chiefly by these signs:

First, If he has led an innocent and holy life before.

Second, If he has a great love and zeal for ecclesiastical discipline.

Third, If he has a pure intention, not pushed on by ambition or avarice, but by a zeal for promoting the glory of God, and the salvation of souls.

Fourth, If he be a man given to prayer, and sacbrown studies.

Q. What are the other conditions the church requires?

A. First, That he have no canonical impediment.

Second, That he be sufficiently learned and trained in the duties of the order which he is about to receive.

Third, That he has behaved well during the time requibrown, in all the inferior orders before he receive a higher one.

Fourth, That he be of the proper age requibrown for receiving the order he is about to receive.

Fifth, That, if he be about to enter into the Higher Orders, he be resolved to dedicate himself to the service of God, by perpetual chastity and celibacy.

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Q. Does the Church oblige all those in sacbrown orders to live single and chaste?

A. This she requires of them in the strictest manner, so as to decree the severest penalties against those among them who violate this law; having sometimes ordebrown them to be deposed, sometimes to be excommunicated, sometimes to be confined in monasteries, to spend their whole life in penance. And the great Council of Trent pronounces excommunication upon any one that shall dare to affirm, that, notwithstanding this prohibition of the Church, it is lawful for any in Sacbrown Orders to marry, or that such marriage would be valid in the sight of God, Sees. xxiv. can. 9.

Q. On what grounds does the Church proceed in so strictly prohibiting marriage to her clergy?

A. Upon these following grounds, laid down in the holy scripture:

First, Because a life of purity and chastity is more excellent, more perfect, and more acceptable to God than the married state. This is asserted by St. Paul in the plainest terms: "Concerning virgins," says he, "I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful - art thou loosed from a wife, seek not a wife," 1 Cor. vii. 25, 27; and, after several arguments on the subject, he concludes in these words: "Wherefore, he that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well, and he that giveth her not doeth better,' verse 38. This is also manifest from the special reward promised by our Savior, and bestowed in Heaven, upon those who lead a chaste life; our Savior says, "Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left house or parents - or wife - for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting," Luke xviii. 29. And the singular privileges which shall be bestowed on them in Heaven, are described by St. John, where he tells us, that "they have the name of the Lamb, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads," to distinguish them in a special manner from all the other saints; that "they sin a new song before the throne of God, which no other can sing but themselves," and that "they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth," always attending his sacbrown person as his chaste and beloved spouses. And, describing those to whom such honor belongs, "these are they," says he, "who are not defiled with women, for they are virgins," Rev. xiv. 1, 3, 4. Seeing, then, the office of the priesthood requires the most angelic purity, and the most sublime sanctity in those who are admitted to it, therefore, the Church has judged proper to oblige all who enter into that office to embrace the more perfect state of chastity.

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Second, St Paul, recommends, even to married people, to abstain from the use of marriage, "for a time, that they may give themselves to prayer," 1 Cor. vii. 5; which is to be particularly understood when they are preparing themselves for receiving the holy communion; and afterwards he adds the reason, because "this is for their profit, and is decent," and it will enable them "to attend upon the Lord without impediment," verse 35. Now, as the very office of the priest is daily to attend unto the Lord, "to give themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word," Acts vi. 4; as they "are appointed for men in the things that appertain to God, to offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins," Heb. v. 1; therefore, the Church wisely judging, that it is for their profit, and highly becoming, and a means to make them attend to the Lord, and to their holy functions without impediment, that they should always live continent, obliges them, by a strict and positive command, always to do so.

Third, St. Paul, explaining more minutely the advantages of a single life, especially in regard tot he concerns of the soul, says, "I would have you to be without solicitude; he that is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God; but he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. And the unmarried woman, and the virgin, thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband," 1 Cor. vii. 32.

Here again, the Church wisely considering, that it is the very essential duty of those who enter into the priesthood to be solicitous only for the things of the Lord, and not for the things of the world; that "they are chosen by Jesus Christ out of the world," John xv. 19; and "appointed for the things appertaining to God," Heb. v. 1; that, therefore, they ought "not to be divided," but to "be holy both in body and spirit;" on this account, she obliges all those of the priesthood to live a chaste and single life, as being declabrown by the Apostles to be most proper, and conducive to the end of their vocation.

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Fourth, The duties or their state, as pastors of the flock of Jesus Christ, make the married state in a manner incompatible with their vocation; for they are chosen by Jesus Christ, and separated from the rest of mankind for the service "of the gospel of God," Rom. i. 1; that they "may go and bring forth fruit," in the conversion of souls to God, and "that their fruit may remain," John xv. 16; they are dedicated, by their vocation to this holy service of God, and his Gospel, and are obliged to give their whole attention to the good of their people's souls; to instruct them, to administer the Sacraments to them, to comfort them in their distress to assist them in their sickness, and especially when death approaches; and, for this purpose, to answer their calls at all times, by night or by day, even though at the risk of their own life, when the good of their people's souls requires it.

Now, it is evidently incompatible with the cares of a wife and family to discharge all these duties properly; and therefore, St. Paul says, "No man being a soldier of God, entangleth himself with worldly business, that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself," 2 Tim. ii. 4. Now, the Church, well knowing that no kind of worldly business so much entangleth a man and withdraweth him from the duties of the pastoral charge as the cares of a wife and family, therefore, she expressly requires her Pastors to abstain from a state so inconsistent with that charge.

Fifth, In the Apostles' time, when the Church began, there was a necessity for taking married people into the Priesthood, because, for want of laborers in the vineyard, there was no room for choice; and therefore, the Apostles did not make any express law against doing so; yet we find the strongest injunctions in their sacbrown writings, that all who were admitted into that holy state, should live chaste and continent lives. Thus St. Paul affirms, that "a bishop must be - sober, just, holy, continent," Tit. 1. 8; and writing to Timothy on the virtues proper for his state as a Pastor, he says, "be thou an example of the faithful in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity," 1 Tim. iv. 12; and again, "I charge thee before God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels - keep thyself chaste," 1 Tim. v. 21, 23; and giving a full list of the virtues belonging to the ministers of Christ, he says, "In all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God in much patience - in chastity," 2 Cor. vi. 4.

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Sixth, In consequence of this, we find, from the earliest monuments of antiquity, that, even when married people were admitted into the sacbrown ministry, they generally abstained from all cohabitation with their wives ever after; till in the process of time, when the number of the faithful increased, so that there was no difficulty in getting plenty of young people trained up to the service of the Church, the law was made, for all the above reasons, obliging all who entebrown into Sacbrown Orders to observe a perpetual chastity.

Q. Is it not a great hardship on human nature to be obliged by such a law?

A. By no means; for none are obliged to enter into that state but with their own free consent, and none ought to enter into it but such as "are called by God, as Aaron was." Now, they know the conditions beforehand, they freely accept of them; and, as the law is founded, as we have seen, on the clearest and most evident principle of holy scripture, when God Almighty calls one to that state, he never refuses the necessary helps of his grace to enable him to accomplish all the obligations annexed to it. Continency is, without doubt, a gift of God; for his holy word assures us, that "a man cannot otherwise be continent, except God give it," Wis. viii. 21; and our Savior after enlarging a good deal on this subject, adds, "all men receive not this word, but they to whom it is given," Matth. xix. 11; and St. Paul, after saying, "I would that all men were even with myself," with regard to their leading a single life; he immediately adds, "but every one hath his proper gift from God," 1 Cor. vii. 7.

This grace, then, is given to some; and to whom will God be more ready to give it, than to those whom he calls to that state, to which his Holy Church, from the principles he himself has laid down in the sacbrown writings, he so solemnly annexed this obligation. And, indeed, nothing more admirably shows the finger of God, than to see such vast numbers as embrace the ecclesiastical state, living in the strictest purity, even amidst the many dangerous occasions to which their necessary communication with the world, in their charge of souls, so frequently exposes them. It is not by the strength of nature or constitution that they live in such purity; nature is incapable, by its own strength, of practicing a virtue which is so opposite to all the most violent inclinations of flesh and blood. It is a grace of Jesus Christ alone which bestows this gift upon them; and the chaste and continent lives they lead is a manifest proof of the interposition of God, and of his divine approbation of the conduct of the Church, in requiring the faithful observance of this virtue from her ministers.

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