In this second and final part of our discussion on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we’ll look at the proper matter and form required for the sacrament. But in order to do that, we have to first recall something important.
Holy Orders, like the Sacrament of Marriage, comprises more than just the decision of one or two people for the sacrament to take place. Previously, we saw how Jesus raised the natural gift of marriage to the level of a sacrament. This means that marriage as a sacrament is more than just a man and a woman deciding to join their lives together. As Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “It takes three to get married,” (the man, the woman, and God.) So too, for a man to receive Holy Orders, it involves more than someone waking up one day and deciding, “I want to be a priest!” (Although that is a great starting point).
Marriage and Holy Orders are both vocations. That is to say, they are callings from God that require the free response and cooperation of those whom He Calls. “No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders … he is called to it by God” (CCC 1578). The Letter to the Hebrews affirms the Divine calling of God’s sacred ministers when he says that every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God … no one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was (Heb 5:1-4).
We know that Jesus calls both men and women to follow Him and to serve Him. Nonetheless, despite the many women who faithfully followed Him, the Apostles that Jesus called were men. And since our bishops, priests, and deacons today all share in the priesthood that Jesus gave to the Apostles, the Church recognizes that those Jesus calls to receive Holy Orders also must be men (CCC 1577).
This leads us into the proper matter and a proper form for Holy Orders. The Church affirms that “a baptized male alone [can] receive sacred ordination validly” (Code of Canon Law, 1024). Thus, the proper “matter” for Holy Orders is a “baptized male.” On the other hand, the “form” of Holy Orders is two-fold: it “consists in the bishop’s imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand [the man being ordained] and in the bishop’s specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and His gifts” (CCC 1573).
Through this two-fold action of the bishop (laying his hands on the head of the man being ordained and the proper ordination prayer over him), baptized men receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be servants and shepherds of the baptized. As God’s Providence would have it, (the Lord’s timing is always impeccable), our diocese had the blessing of witnessing the ordination of Reverend Mr. Lawrence Barile to the Priesthood on December 8, 2021.
Congratulations Father Barile - by the grace of God, may you be an effective minister at His holy altar and a humble servant to His holy people.
By Father Michael Bovino