The Marriage and Family Life Commission, part of the Diocesan structure and based at Poringland, has been established to assist in the organisation and implementation of initiatives which enable married couples to live out their vocation to each other and as evangelisers in the world.
The Commission has developed a marriage preparation course for engaged couples - So Great a Mystery - which consists of 4 sessions delivered at a parish level and a day-long Saturday session delivered on an area basis.
The programme is comprehensive - it includes church teaching on marriage as a covenant and sacrament, how to overcome difficulties, and practical advice on both the wedding ceremony and married life. As such, it prepares couples well for marriage in the Church.
There is a cost associated with the programme which covers all materials and lunch and refreshments on the Saturday session. More details about the programme can be found on the Diocesan web site here.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most unique and beautiful aspects of Catholicism. Jesus Christ, in His abundant love and mercy, established the Sacrament, so that we as sinners can obtain forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled with God and the Church. The sacrament “washes us clean,” and renews us in Christ.
This sacrament is known by many names:
By his death on the Cross, Jesus Christ redeemed man from sin and from the consequences of his sin, especially from the eternal death that is sin’s due. So it is not surprising that on the very day he rose from the dead, Jesus instituted the sacrament by which men’s sins could be forgiven.
A power granted by Christ
It was on Easter Sunday evening that Jesus appeared to his Apostles, gathered together in the Upper Room, where they had eaten the Last Supper. “He said to them again, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.’ After saying this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’” John 20:21-23.
This power to forgive sin which Jesus conferred upon his Apostles was not, of course, to die with them; no more so than the power to change bread and wine into his Body and Blood, which he conferred upon his Apostles at the Last Supper.
Jesus did not come upon earth just to save a few chosen souls, or just the people who lived on earth during the lifetime of his Apostles. Jesus came to save everybody who was willing to be saved, down to the end of time. He had you and me in mind, as well as Timothy and Titus, when he died on the Cross. It is evident then that the power to forgive sins is a part of the power of the priesthood, to be passed on in the sacrament of Holy Orders from generation to generation. It is the power which every priest exercises when he raises his hand over the contrite sinner and says, “I absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” These are called “the words of absolution.”
The sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament in which the priest, as the agent of God, forgives sins committed after Baptism, when the sinner is heartily sorry for them, sincerely confesses them, and is willing to make satisfaction for them.
At St Mary Magdalen church,The sacrament of Reconciliation is normally available on Saturdays at 10:00, upon request after weekday Masses or by appointment.
For most people, marriage is one of the most important decisions and realities of their life: in it they form a community of love. For Catholics, marriage is not merely a civil contract but is a covenant between a man and a women before God. If both are baptised, the marriage is a sacrament, a symbol of the unity of Christ and the Church. A sacramental marriage is a means of grace, giving strength to the husband and wife to live out their commitment and to help each other to holiness.
As you prepare for marriage, you will be asked to reflect carefully and prayerfully on the nature of this sacrament. Before we look at some of the steps of that preparation process, consider some of the points made in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Any marriage involving a Catholic is subject to Church norms known as "Canon Law". Catholics are obliged to marry in the Catholic Church, following a marriage rite of the Catholic Church. Their exchange of vows must be witnessed by either a priest or a deacon and two other witnesses.
Preparing for marriage
Most couples reserve a reception location a year or even more in advance. Before you do that, or contract with a photographer, think about invitations or make any other arrangements, you need to talk to your parish priest. Diocesan guidelines say you should do so at least 6 months before the time you would like to get married. Be sure to allow extra time - usually more than a year - if either of you require an annulment. Once you speak with your priest, you will begin a formal process of marriage preparation. This involves a process of discernment which is meant to be an affirming experience as you become more aware of your readiness to enter Christian married life.
Your parish priest has the responsibility for your marriage preparation. The preparation will consist of participation at one or two diocesan marriage preparation sessions usually organised for all the couples in Ipswich along with a series of meetings with the priest depending on the need of the couple. You will have an opportunity to plan the ceremony during one or more of these sessions. The meetings contain some formal input, some discussion and a time of prayer, and the content of this preparation course can be adapted to suit any specific needs of the couple.
You will have to provide copies of your baptismal certificates, an affidavit of free status, annulment papers, divorce papers in some cases or death certificate of previous spouse. You will need to contact the local Registrar's office and make an appointment for a licence to get married at this church. This licence should be given to the priest at least 6 weeks before your wedding and will then in turn be given to the authorised person who acts as registrar at the wedding service. Without this licence we will not be able to celebrate your wedding at St Mary Magdalen church.
The Wedding Ceremony
There are a number of options available from which you can chose. The priest will assist you in understanding the nature of the liturgy and the various options and choices regarding music, readings and the ritual. The wedding liturgy should be planned to encourage the participation of the assembly through hymns and prayers.
You may like to book an organist for your wedding - please discuss your wishes with the priest. The church is equipped with a sound system incorporating a Bluetooth receiver allowing pre-recorded music to be played too.
You are welcome to arrange your own florist to decorate the church for your wedding. Please discuss this with the pries however, to arrange a suitable time for access to the church to be given to the florist to carry out their work. If you want to keep costs down, our parish flower ladies will be happy to arrange flowers for you for a small donation plus the cost of the flowers.
The Wedding Rehearsal
This will be conducted by the priest near the day of your wedding. This is part of the preparation process and offers an excellent opportunity for the wedding party to join together in prayer. It is important that all parties involved in the ceremony - the bride's father, best man, bridesmaids, readers, ushers and those who bring up the offerings - participate.
On the day, we understand that is is often the practice, or at least an acceptable custom, for the bride to be late for her wedding! Please remember however that it will prove to be inconvenient for a number of people if any delay is more than a few minutes.
How Much Do I Pay
Neither the priest nor the Church charge a fee for celebrating a sacrament. However, since a lot of time and resources are put into making your wedding day a wonderful occasion, you are invited to make a donation in the region of what you would spend on your wedding cake. The authorised person (Registrar) charges a fee set by local government (currently £86 in Suffolk County Council area). Your organist will inform you of the charge to be made - typically in the region £100-150 depending on distance of travel).
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt.28: 19)
The wonderful sacrament of Baptism is much more than a private ceremony for your baby, for you, your family and your friends. Baptism is a sacrament of Christ and of his Church. Through Baptism, God the Father brings your baby into His royal family, adopting your child as His own beloved daughter or son. Your baby becomes the brother or sister of other Christians. Baptism is very much a family affair: a special day both for your family but also for the family of the Church.
Through Baptism, the Risen Jesus unites your baby to Himself in a special way, making him or her a member of His Body, the Church. Baptism is the beginning of a journey; it looks forward to being completed through receiving First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Baptism leads to the Mass, which is why the ceremony finishes at the altar.
Preparing for Baptism
We make careful preparations for the birth of a baby, and we should take as much care in making preparation for Baptism, a second birth into God’s great family. When your child is baptised you are undertaking the responsibility to bring him or her up in the practice of the Faith and to help him or her to grow in that Faith. The Church recognises that this is primarily your responsibility but wishes to work hand in hand with you in every way that it can. In an ideal situation, the Church sees that there are three parts to a child’s Faith development – parents, parish and school: this is a partnership in which all three are involved in that order.
Baptism is not about ticking boxes, something to “get done”. It is a Sacrament of the Church, a sacred rite through which Jesus reaches out to touch their life. In fact this is the foundation of all other sacraments. It involves a commitment from the parents and godparents to bring the child up in faith which includes bringing them to Mass on Sundays in the parish community, the true home of the Church and attending children’s liturgy of the word when they are old enough. Yes! It is demanding and it is important. Be truthful, if you never, or only rarely, come to church, maybe you and your child are not ready for Baptism. Your commitment to Sunday Mass and the Baptism preparation sessions are vital. It is very important that you are honest about this, if you are baptising your child, this is what you are committing to do, are you ready to do it?
Here at St Mary Magdalen, we will try to help you in every way but your part is THE most important and without your support it will be impossible for your child to grow in Faith. Your role is at home in teaching your child to pray, helping them to meet Jesus and know Him, as well as knowing about Him from the Bible. We help and support you through Baptism preparation sessions, Sunday Liturgy of the Word and by inviting you to join the children’s pilgrimage to Walsingham and the annual buggy masses.
Ideally all the Godparents must be confirmed, practicing adult Catholics who will take an active interest in the spiritual growth of the child. That is not possible for all of us. The minimum requirement is that at least one of the godparents must be confirmed, practicing Catholic aged 16 or over. You may also have non-Catholic Christians who are technically known as “Christian Witnesses”.
When to Baptise?
The norm of the Church is that the baptism be celebrated during the Sunday Mass in the presence of the worshipping community. This is not always possible as several other things are often incorporated into the Sunday Mass. Often we encourage parents to join the Mass at 10.00 am so that we can welcome the baby in the presence of the community and do the baptism immediately after the Mass. If this not convenient we offer Baptisms on Sundays at 11.30am or on some Saturdays. There is no such thing as private Baptism: that would contradict the whole meaning of Baptism. Therefore it would be wonderful to baptise several babies together when it is done outside the Mass. If your baby is not baptised during, or immediately after, Mass we would like to publicly welcome your child into our parish community at Mass the following Sunday. Please arrange that with the priest.
Who will Baptise my baby?
This will normally be the parish priest, unless you have a priest friend or relative whom you would like to perform the ceremony.
How much should I pay?
There is no fee for Baptism or for any other sacraments. But it is an occasion for you to make an appropriate donation to the church as we depend on such donations for the daily running and upkeep of this beautiful church. Your donation is not a payment to the priest but a donation to the church. To be completely truthful, Yes! There is an expectation of a donation from the worshipping community that looks after the building. However, we do not want financial concerns to be an issue when you prepare to celebrate this wonderful event of being born into the family of God. The parish will be happy with whatever donation you make.
A baby is a new opportunity to appreciate the meaning of Baptism, as well as your responsibilities towards this wonderful new life that God has placed in your care. Often it is an opportunity for parents to re-discover their own faith. Our parish community looks forward to welcoming your child as a member of our family, as a member of the Body of Christ and as a young parishioner. We promise to give you the support of our prayers and all the help we can give. May God bless you and your child!
If your child is four or above we need to arrange some sessions with our children’s Catechists to make the child aware of the meaning and importance of what happens to him or her at the baptism celebration. This will require at least 3 months notice. If your child is eight or above, we would like him or her to join the First Holy Communion classes from November and get baptised at the Easter Vigil the following year and then make their First Holy Communion with others in May/June. Anyone above sixteen will join the RCIA programme (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) which we run every year from November to Easter. They will be baptised, Confirmed and make their First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil.
Please download the form below and complete it to book the baptism of your baby. Return the form to the Fr Mathew at the church or electronically by email. Address details can be found on the contact page.
There is probably no sacrament more misunderstood than the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. And it likely goes back to the time when it was called Extreme Unction—the Last Anointing.
In their attempt to revitalise all seven sacraments, the bishops of Vatican II not only looked at the way each sacrament was celebrated, but the theology behind each celebration. In the case of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, they renewed the theology, gave it a new name, and revised the ritual.
Moments of mental or physical illness can be times of crisis. They can mean a time of loss and pain, a time of insight and growth, or anything in between (cf.CCC1501). Regardless, our loving God wants to be a part of our experience. He wants to share our lives with us, the bad and the good (cf.CCC1503). But his presence and support often comes in and through the Church—our faith community. The kind words and help that we receive from others are a part of this, for God works through human means. We need to pay attention to how God works through them.
The Church can officially support us through the sacraments. In the case of an illness, that support comes in the form of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (cf.CCC1511). And, as the ritual clearly states, the focus is life, health, and well-being. But we must remember that a part of the fullness of life is our spiritual lives with God, which begun at Baptism and will inevitably lead to death and resurrection (cf.CCC1523).
Clearly recognizing that human frailty is a part of the reality of life, our loving God is with us through this sacrament to strengthen us when our minds or bodies grow weak. Thus, a person facing a significant surgery is encouraged to avail themselves of this sacrament (cf.CCC1515), as well as the aged or seriously ill (cf.CCC1513).
The bishops at Vatican II were realistic in recognising human illness and frailty. If death should be the result of the illness, God and his Church assist the journey into new life by offering the Eucharist as Viaticum. Just as the Eucharist nourished us throughout life, so it is nourishment for our travels into new life.
This sacrament, then, is not to be viewed as the kiss of death, but one of healing and life.
In what way is this a healing sacrament?
In the Anointing of the Sick, the focus is on the possibility of a spiritual and/or a physical healing. The prayers address the sick person as a whole, which includes all aspects of our human life. So while a physical or psychological ailment may be the most obvious cause of the person’s suffering, other aspects of the person’s health are also taken into consideration. Many times, the spiritual healing is far more dramatic than the physical, and sometimes this takes the form of an increased ability to accept the physical illness and its suffering.
Death is a reality of our human life, and we need not try to deny that fact when it becomes obvious or inevitable. In such cases, the Sacrament of Anointing prepares a person for death, which includes spiritual healing and the forgiveness of sins.
Does one have to
be dying to receive it?
Canon law states that anyone who is in some danger of death from an illness or from old age can receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Likewise, should the person’s condition worsen, the sacrament may be repeated (cf.CIC, can. 1004). The code then immediately offers this caveat: If there is any doubt as to the seriousness of the illness or condition, the sacrament is to be received (cf.CIC, can. 1005). The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds that it is also appropriate to receive the sacrament prior to surgery (cf.CCC, 1515).
It must also be remembered that the sacrament is a sacrament of the living. It cannot be offered to one who has already breathed their last breath. But it is appropriate for those near death as it completes our life on earth just as baptism began it (cf.CCC, 1523).
What actually happens during this sacrament?
If circumstances allow, the Sacrament of Reconciliation should be celebrated with the sick person prior to the Sacrament of Anointing. If not, there is a brief penitential rite within the introductory prayers.
The sacrament consists of readings from the Scriptures, the laying on of hands, the blessing of the oil and the anointing on the forehead and hands, the communal recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, and the dismissal. If the sick person is able to receive Communion, the Eucharist may be offered just after the Lord’s Prayer.
It is ideal if the family of the sick person can gather for this ritual. If done in a hospital, the staff also may be invited to participate. The presence of others assures us that the Church is present in prayer. If such presence is not possible, the sacrament can be administered with just the sick person and the priest present.
How do I arrange for Annotation of the Sick?
If you, or a member of your family, would like to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, please contact Fr Mathew in person, by telephone, by email or by using the contact form on this site. The method of contact should be commensurate with the urgency of the situation.
The doctrine of the Holy Eucharist consists of that of the Eucharist sacrifice, the sacrificial meal, and the sacrificial food, or to express it otherwise, it consists of the doctrine of the Mass, of Communion, and of the Real Presence. There is no presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that is not meant first and foremost as food for the faithful people and there is no sacramental union with Christ in Holy Communion that is not to be thought of as a sacrificial meal: “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). The Eucharistic meal can only be prepared in the sacrifice of the Mass.
Thus the mystery of the Eucharist summarises the whole mystery of our redemption. There are two fundamental relationships in which Christ stands to us. First, he is our priestly mediator with God, and offers him atonement for our sins. But Christ is not a stranger to us, who merely represents us as a propitiator before God. He comes to us in the second relationship by being the mediator of the grace which God gives us on account of his sacrifice. That is the mystery of our union with Christ who is the source of all grace for us. “And of his fullness we have all received, grace for grace” (John 1:16).
This second community is realized only in the sacrifice of the Cross, by his giving his life for his Church which he had to ransom from himself. Only in death did Christ seal the deep covenant with the Church whereby she is purified and sanctified and which according to the teaching of St. Paul is the image of the most intimate union of human being in marriage: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church and delivered himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life” (Eph. 5:25). From the opened side of our crucified Saviour the Church was first born, as Eve was taken from Adam's side. That is the most ancient way of expressing this truth.
This twofold relationship, then, in which Christ stands to us men, as our mediator before God and the bringer of all graces from God, lives on in the mystery of the Eucharist. The Holy Mass is the renewing of the sacrifice which Christ offered for us, of the sacrifice of atonement for our sins; but the sacrifice is also at the same time the preparation of the Eucharistic meal, the sacrament of our union with Christ in grace.
We should not be surprised if the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament occurs more than most doctrines in the documents of the Church. There are few mysteries of the faith where the mystery is so evident and therefore so exposed to the attacks of heresy and unbelief. However, the militant position of the Church should not prevent us from seeing the Real Presence in the context of the whole Eucharistic mystery.
The Church teaches that the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist is made up of:
1. Doctrine about the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Holy Mass is a real sacrifice, instituted by Christ at the Last Supper. It represents Christ's sacrifice of the Cross, but in an un-bloody manner. Priest and victim are both Christ, who offers himself through the priest. The laity also offers the sacrifice, but does not have the power to transubstantiate. The Eucharistic sacrifice is offered to God in praise, thanksgiving, petition and atonement, for the living and the dead. Saints may also be commemorated in honour and petition. The Church has the responsibility of determining the rites and prayers to be observed. The liturgy as a whole is the public worship by the mystical Body of Christ. In every liturgical activity Christ is present, in a manner that must be properly interpreted.
2. Doctrine about the Eucharistic sacrament, sacrificial meal and sacrificial food:
The Holy Eucharist is a true sacrament, instituted by Christ. Christ is really present in the Holy Eucharist, even when not being received. It is therefore to be honoured and adored. The whole Christ is present in either kind and is received by the communicant. For the wheat bread and grape wine are transubstantiated by the ordained priest into the flesh and blood of Christ so that only the appearance of bread and wine remains.
The sacrament effects union with Christ; it is nourishment for the soul, gives increase in grace and remits venial sin and punishment.
Confirmation is the one of the three sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church, the other two being Baptism and First Holy Communion. According to Catholic doctrine, in the sacrament of Confirmation, the faithful are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and are strengthened in their Christian life. Just as bodies and minds grow, we believe that the soul also needs to grow in the life of grace. The sacrament of Confirmation builds on the sacraments of Baptism, Penance, and Holy Communion, completing the process of initiation into the Catholic church.
The sacrament of confirmation completes the sacrament of Baptism. If Baptism is the sacrament of re-birth to a new and supernatural life, Confirmation is the sacrament of maturity and coming of age. The real confession of Christ consists in this - 'that the whole man submits himself to Truth, in the judgement of his understanding, in the submission of his will and in the consecration of his whole power of love . . . To do this, poor-spirited man is only able when he has been confirmed by God's grace'
This confirmation in the power of the Holy Spirit leading to a firm profession of faith has always been the particular effect which Catholic tradition has ascribed to the sacrament. It is effect which complements and completes that of Baptism. Being confirmed in the Church means accepting responsibility for your faith and destiny. Adulthood, even young adulthood, means that you must do what’s right on your own, not for the recognition or reward but merely because it’s the right thing to do.
Confirmation is a true sacrament instituted by Christ and different from Baptism. It is administered by laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism accompanied by prayer. The chrism is blessed by the bishop and the bishop administers the sacrament. All baptised persons can and should be confirmed. The effect of the sacrament of confirmation is to give strength in faith and for the confession of faith and to impress an indelible character.
The Confirmation ceremony may take place at Mass or outside of Mass, and the presiding bishop wears red vestments to symbolise the red tongues of fire seen hovering over the heads of the apostles at Pentecost. Each person wishing to be confirmed comes forward with his or her sponsor, who may or may not be one of the godparents chosen for Baptism.
Fundamentally, the sacrament of Holy Orders creates a priest. There’s a little more to it than that, of course - as the Catechism’s section on Holy Orders says: this “is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees - the orders of bishop, priest, and deacon”. (Catechism, 1536).
So what is a priest?
To know what a priest is we have to know what a sacrifice is. Nowadays the word “sacrifice” is used in many different ways. But in its strict, original meaning, a sacrifice is the offering of a gift to God by a group, through the agency of someone who has the right to represent the group. The purpose of such an offering is to give group worship to God; that is, to acknowledge God’s supreme lordship over mankind, to thank him for his blessings, to atone for human sin, and to beg for his benefits.
It is not that God needs our gifts - everything that exists was made by God in the first place. Items of great worth by human reckoning would have no value in God’s eyes. Until Jesus gave us himself as the perfect gift in the sacrifice of the Mass, nothing that man could offer to God was really worthy of God.
Sacrifice, in short, is prayer in action. It is the prayer-in-action of a group. And the one who offers the sacrifice in the name of the group is the priest. At the Last Supper Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In this new sacrifice the gift offered to God would not be a mere token gift, such as a sheep or an ox or bread and wine, but the gift now, for the first time and always, would be a gift worthy of God. It would be the gift of God’s own Son - a gift of infinite value, even as God himself is infinite.
In the Mass, under the appearances of bread and wine, Jesus would daily renew the once-and-forever offering which, upon the cross, he made of himself to God. In the Mass he would give to each of us, his baptised members, the opportunity to unite ourselves with him in that offering.
Who is a priest?
Who would be the human priest who would stand at the altar - the human agent whose hands and whose lips Christ would use for the offering of himself? Who would be the human priest to whom Christ would give the power of making the God-Man present upon the altar, under the appearances of bread and wine?
There were eleven such priests, to begin with. (It is not certain that Judas was present at the time the Apostles were made priests.) At the Last Supper, as we know, Jesus made his Apostles priests, when he gave them the command, and with the command, the power, to do what he had just done. He said “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:20).
It was this power, the power to offer sacrifice in the name of Christ and of Christ’s Mystical Body, his Church (which means you and me united to Christ by Baptism), which made the Apostles priests.
To this power of changing bread and wine into his Body and Blood, Jesus on Easter Sunday night added the power to forgive sins in his name. He said “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).
An Unbroken Line
This power of the priesthood which Christ conferred upon his Apostles was not to die with them. Jesus came to save the souls of all people who ever would live, down to the end of the world. Consequently, the Apostles passed their priestly power on to other men in the ceremony which we now call the sacrament of Holy Orders.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read of one of the first (if not the first) ordinations by the Apostles: “And the plan met the approval of the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip and Prochorus and Nicanor and Timon and Parmenas and Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch. These they set before the Apostles, and after they had prayed they laid their hands upon them.” (Acts 6:5-6)
It was as deacons that these men were ordained, not yet as priests. But it gives us the picture of the Apostles sharing, and passing on to others, the sacred power which Jesus had bestowed upon them. As time went on, the Apostles consecrated more bishops to carry on their work. These bishops in turn ordained other bishops and priests, and these bishops in their turn, still others, so that the Catholic priest of today can truly say that the power of his priesthood has come down, in the sacrament of Holy Orders, in an unbroken line from Christ himself.
Holy Orders is a unique sacrament
There are two notable ways in which the sacrament of Holy Orders differs from the other sacraments. One is the fact that Holy Orders can be administered only by a bishop. Only a bishop has the power to ordain priests. An ordinary priest cannot pass his power on to another. The second way in which Holy Orders differs from other sacraments is that Holy Orders is not received all at once.
When we are baptized, we are completely baptised by the single pouring of water. When we are confirmed, we are completely confirmed in a single ceremony. Holy Orders, however, is given by degrees, by successive steps. The sacrament of Holy Orders unfolds itself through three stages as it confers successively the powers of deacon, priest, and bishop.
Deaconship, priesthood, and bishopric are the three stages in the sacrament of Holy Orders as it was instituted by Christ. At each stage, as in every sacrament, there is an increase in sanctifying grace. At each stage there is the imprinting of a character upon the soul; each successive character, like a progressively brighter sun, enveloping and containing the one that has gone before. In that character are rooted the right and the power that belong to the order which is being received. For the deacon it is the right to baptise, to preach, and to administer Holy Communion. For the priest it is the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and to forgive sins. For the bishop, who alone has the complete fullness of the priesthood, it is the power to confirm and to ordain - to pass the power of the priesthood on to others in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
For priests (and of course bishops), Holy Orders “configures them to Christ” in a special way so that they can act in the person of Christ the Head. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Holy Spirit imparts that tremendous and almost unbelievable power to call Jesus Christ himself down upon the altar. It is in the Sacrifice of the Mass that the priest exercises the supreme degree of his sacred office. This is the supreme Sacrifice, offered in divine worship in the person of Christ (in persona Christi), by which the priest acts as a true priest of the New Covenant. We must also remember that it is only by this sacred, ordained power to act in persona Christi that the priest has the power to forgive, in Christ’s name, the sins of men.
In the sacrament of Holy Orders, Christ has provided us with an essential link to himself. Above all else, Holy Orders makes possible the extraordinary gift of the Sacrifice of the Mass - a gift from Christ himself.