Priestly Ordination

This Saturday, June 9 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler (10:00am), Bishop Joseph Strickland will ordain Deacon Hector Arvizu and Deacon Roselio Fuentes to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The Rite of Ordination has ancient roots and unfolds in a beautiful way. The joy of the ordination is magnified by the presence and prayer of the great number of the faithful who attend the Mass of Ordination.

The Mass of Ordination begins like any other, with the first alteration occurring immediately after the Gospel is proclaimed. At the time, the rite directs us to the Election of the Candidate. In this rite, the men to be ordained receive their vocation, quite literally, from the Bishop himself. The word “vocation” means “calling.” The calling occurs during this rite, when the name of the man to be ordained is read aloud, the man presents himself before the bishop, and the bishop declares, “We choose these men.”

After the homily, we return to the unique parts of the Mass of Ordination. First, the bishop questions the ordinandi (those to be ordained). He asks them about their resolution to live all aspects of the priestly life. This dialogue concludes with a solemn moment, when the ordinandi kneel before the bishop, placing their hands in his as a symbol of mutual trust, and they promise obedience to him and his successors.

Following these promises, the ordinandi lie prostrate before the altar while all sing the Litany of Saints. During this time, the Church in heaven and on earth covers the ordinandi in a flood of prayer. The ordinandi lie face down on the ground, showing their complete submission to God and expressing their prayer for His grace.

Next the bishop lays hands on the head of each of the ordinandi. This is part of the matter of the sacrament of Holy Orders, going back to the apostles themselves (see 1 Timothy 4:14). After the bishop lays hands on them, all the priests in attendance do the same. This gesture by the priests manifests the unity of the priesthood of Christ. The ordinandi are about to join into a sacred fraternity of men who share in Christ’s eternal priesthood.

The bishop then prays the prayer of consecration, the form of the sacrament of Holy Orders. During this beautiful prayer, the bishop bestows the priestly order upon the ordinandi, saying, “Grant to this servant of yours the dignity of the priesthood.” With those words, the man becomes a priest forever.

Immediately afterward, the newly ordained priest dons the priestly stole and chasuble. The priestly stole is used anytime the priest blesses, bestows a sacrament, or preaches. The chasuble, the large vestment worn over the alb and stole, is the vestment proper to the priesthood. It symbolizes charity, in which the priest should be enwrapped.

Finally, the priest kneels before the bishop, who anoints his hands with the sacred chrism, holy oil. This anointing makes the hands of the priest holy, setting them aside for heavenly realities. By those hands, the priest will consecrate the Most Holy Eucharist. The hands of the priest are anointed because through the hands of the priest we receive Christ Himself.

Following the Mass of Ordination, it is traditional to receive a blessing from the newly ordained priest. After receiving the blessing, the faithful should kiss the palms of his hands, lately anointed, in adoration of the Lord Jesus, who comes to us now through the hands of another priest.