Priesthood is among the three holy orders of the Catholic Church, the other two are the Deacons and Bishops. A catholic Priest is a baptised man who has received the sacrament of holy orders to serve as an ambassador of Christ. He is picked among men and consecrated to be a bridge between God and men.
A priest is normally addressed with the title Father (Fr). In the 2016 Annuario Pontificio, there are about 415,792 Catholic priest around the world as of Dec 31,2014.
Ordination comes from the word Ordinatio which is term used by Romans as a process of appointing civil functionaries to office, Roman Catholics adopted the similar word to signify appointment of liturgical functions. As time goes the word Ordinatio was term simply used as consecration of man to become a priest, Bishops and promotion to Deaconship.
Order is derived from the word Ordo which is a word used in Rome to label a set of group from the normal people example The knights, Senate etc. The word hadn’t been used by any pagans, the Christians borrowed the word to describe the body of Clergy different from the laities.
Both Ordained and Unordained Catholics can live a consecrated life. Religious brothers, Permanent Deaconate(those who have chosen to become deacons forever and not to be ordained a priest) , Monks etc are examples of unordained bodies living a consecrated life. They are not considered as part of the laity because they have taking some vows which distinguish them from the lay people example Vow to remain Chaste.
All females religious bodies are non ordained. Only males are allowed to be ordained in the Catholic Church.
History of ordination
In the Catholic Church the ordination of Bishop follows an unbroken line of succession from the apostle, to the early church till date. The apostles appointed some men to succeed them as bishops (episkopoi, Greek for “overseers”) and also presbyters (presbyteroi, Greek for “elders”) and deacons (diakonoi, Greek for “servants”) to help the bishops in the early church. Due to increase in the number of Christians around the word, the bishops appointed more Presbyter or Priests to assist them in the liturgical activities in different Parishes around the word.
Only a Priest can perform the ceremony of the Eucharist, which Christ instituted on the last supper when he blessed the bread and wine and offered it to his apostles as his body and blood and told them to do this in memory of me.
The number of Catholic priest worldwide has decreased to 414,313 since 1970 to 2012. But the number of Catholic has multiplied growing from 653.3millions to 1.229 billion in 2012. This has led to shortage of priest and made many parishes not to have a priest residing in them.
The number of priests is falling in Europe and the Americas faster than the number of local Catholics is declining. This has resulted in some African and Asian priests being recruited to European and American churches, reversing the historical practice of Catholic missionaries being sent from Western countries to the rest of the world.
Education of a Catholic Priest
Before a man becomes a catholic priest he has to undergo various studies and programs which will help him to know about the vocation he’s about to enter and also to prepare him for his ministry. Priesthood is not a normal profession, it’s a sacred vocation which firstly you must be called by God and secondly prepare yourself before you enter it.
These programs are demanded by canon law (in the Latin rite, canons 232–264) and last at least 5-6years depending National Programme of priest formation.
To become a Priest in the USA, Australia, North America and Europe you must study Philosophy for 4years and earn degree in Philosophy. Also study Theology 4-5 years dedicated to Bible research. A master of divinity is the most common degree.
There’s a mandatory year of preparation in Scotland followed by one year that is dedicated to spiritual formation before the several years of study to become a priest.
German and Austrian priest candidates graduate with an academic degree (Magister theologiae, Diplom-Theologe, Master of Arts in Theology) which is a 5years program followed by one year spiritual program which includes learning of ancient languages. After the spiritual year program, they undergo 2 years of pastoral practice, which is when he’s made a deacon.
In Africa the candidate studies Philosophy for 4years followed by another 4 years to study Theology, earning degree in both studies.
The study of being a priest involves Academic, Social, spiritual and pastoral formation. These formation prepares the candidate to be winner and pastors of souls.
Rite of ordination of Catholic priest
The rite of ordination takes place during the mass after the gospel had been read. The Candidates sits in the midst of people and are called out one by one to assemble before the Bishop, each person answer “present ” when called out. This signifies that God calls men into ministry from the midst of faithful people (Heb 5:1-6).
The bishop will ask the people in charge of the candidate, if the candidates are ready and worthy to be ordained. After it the Bishop will proceed with a homily which contains instructions for the Ordinands (candidates about to be ordained) . Then the Ordinands will be questioned by the Bishop if they are ready to be ordained and willing to be obedient to his instructions and guidance , the candidate answers the Bishop questions with “I’m with the help of God.”
The candidate will now prostrate himself at the altar as a symbol of total submission to the will of God and hands his entire life to God. The whole congregation will kneel down and say the litany of the Saints to ask for the help of all the Saints to accompany the Ordinands throughout their priesthood and to remind us how the Saints lived a holy life and we should live same holy life too.
The essential part of the ordination is when the Bishop lays his hands on the head of each Ordinand and prays silently invoking the power of the Holy Spirit upon each Ordinand (acts 6:6). The priest present in the ceremony do same too, which signifies they also share the gift of ordination through the gift of Holy Spirit.
The second essential part of the ordination is when the whole priest raise their hands in blessing, as the Bishop prays the prayer of Consecration of the candidate and the congregation answer amen to the Bishop prayer
Now the newly ordained priests will remove the deacon stole and wear the priest stole and the Chasuble then return back to the Bishop, the Bishop will anoints their hands with Chrism oil.
After it the Bishop will present to each of the new priests a Chalice and Paten which they will use during the liturgy of the Eucharist.
The rite of ordination ends with sign of peace and the liturgy of the Eucharist begins immediately by the Bishop, with each new priest taking part in celebrating the Eucharist as their first celebration of Eucharist as a Priest.
Duties of a catholic priest
A catholic priest is assigned to a particular parish, where he provides the spiritual needs of the Catholic members there and administer the sacrament of the church. A priest under the permission of the Bishop can administer the sacrament of confirmation.