St. Mark 3: 7 – 19 Part 2

December 7, 2022

Remember yesterday we looked at verse 14 which specifically mentioned Jesus ordaining the twelve disciples? We looked at the promises men being ordained make – in front of the congregation, the bishop, and before God.

As only a bishop can ordain a deacon or priest, I wondered what it must be like for him at the ordination. I am blessed beyond measure to know our Archbishop, Chandler Jones. The joy of Christ is written large across his wonderful face! His enthusiasm for the Lord and for his flock is unmistakable and completely infectious. I sent him an email asking him about the bishop side of the ordination equation and graciously allowed me to share his answer. He writes:

Thoughts on vocations to the Sacred Priesthood
It is always a delight when the thought of priesthood crosses the mind of a faithful Christian man. There are, of course, requisite qualities: a life of prayer, an attraction to the holy, a determination to sacrifice and serve, adequate intellectual and physical ability, psychological and emotional stability, a solid marriage and family life, and proven commitment to the Church. Vocation is not so much a belief that we have something to offer to God, as it is the willingness to be used by God, a willingness to offer ourselves for the greatest glory of God and the salvation of souls. Vocation is simply the act to align our will with the Holy Will of God, in whatever form that calling may take.  The pursuit of vocation is discerning in our life what would bring God the greatest glory and service, and then acting decisively upon that discernment. It is an act of the will, as all acts of love are. The call to Holy Orders is first and foremost ecclesiastical – it comes from the Church.  We know a man is called to ordination when he stands before the bishop, and the bishop, who personifies the Church, calls him forth to receive the imposition of hands. 

Age should not deter one from consideration of a vocation to Holy Orders within the Church. I personally know, on one hand, of the case of a young Roman Catholic man who was ordained, by special dispensation from his bishop, to the holy priesthood three hours before his death. At age 28, he had terminal cancer, diagnosed while in seminary. He was ordained to the diaconate before his condition worsened to the point of no return. Because his life was entirely consecrated to Our Lord, he was allowed to be ordained on his death-bed. His only priestly act was to give a blessing, a sign of the cross on his friend’s hand, before he died. On the other hand, I know of several gentlemen over the age of 60 who, within Anglicanism, have discerned a vocation to the priesthood and have pursued it all the way to ordination. Many of these men had secular careers for their entire lives, although the call to the priestly life had chewed away at them for decades before they finally gave in.

It matters not what one’s age may be, so long as one is able to exercise the ministry with energy, intelligence, care, sensitivity, and dedication, and to exercise one’s capacity for ecclesiastical work. All that truly matters is the vocation from God, which ultimately becomes expressed through the call of the Church in the person of the bishop. 
‘It is the Mass that matters.’ The greatest dignity of the holy priesthood, apart from the pastoral, sanctifying, and teaching office, which is of supreme importance, is the offering and celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for the priest does what no one else can do, even angels. No president, politician, scientist, philosopher, or king can take bread and wine, offer them in persona Christi in the name of Christ’s Church before God the Eternal Father, and transform them into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Only a Catholic priest can consecrate and offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the sacramental making-present or re-presentation of the one all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ, and administer thereby the true and objectively-present Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of the God-Man in Holy Communion. This mind-boggling dignity calls men to the priesthood.  The Catholic priesthood is the most profound gift and highest dignity ever conferred on man.

Priestly ordination at the hands of an Apostolic Bishop gives the ordained the ability to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, to hear Confessions, and to anoint the sick with the sacrament of Unction. The people thus have access to the life-giving, grace-filled sacraments. The priesthood, because it sacramentally configures the ordained to the Crucified Lord of Sacrifice, requires in turn sacrifice of its own most deeply personal and kind. 

The orthodox Anglican position on these matters is exactly that of the undivided Catholic Church of the first millennium, summed up by the third successor of Saint Peter at Antioch, Saint Ignatius (d. 117 AD), who writes such things as ‘Where the bishop is, let the congregation be – just as where Jesus Christ, there is the Catholic Church’ and ‘Where there is the bishop, there is the Church’ and ‘Where the bishop, priest, and deacon are not present, there the name “Church” is not given.’ The Anglican position is that the threefold apostolic ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon is essential to the life, communion, and unity of the Catholic Church as instituted by Our Lord, for the apostolic ministry is the organ and living instrument of Christ in His Body the Church, and has been so transmitted, handed-down to us, by Christ Himself. 
In other words, Anglicans believe the Sacrament of Holy Orders in its three grades or levels is of divine institution and of necessary government for the Church of Christ. The Catholic priesthood is thus the extension of the Apostles’ commission in history and geography.

When one is ordained, one embraces the historic ministry of the Catholic Church, the sacrament of Orders, as being of the fullness of the ministry commended to the Church by Christ and the Apostles – a Ministry which possesses a universally-recognised character both in time and space in the Christian world, which exists as a covenanted means of grace, a sure and certain sign and sacrament that what Our Lord promises in the sacraments through the ministry will be conveyed ex opere operato. Sacramental ordination guarantees Christ in the sacraments.
The process of ordination is a thorough and protracted one, designed to ensure that proper formation and training are provided over the course of several years. The postulant works directly with his bishop, his parish Rector, and the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains. Our jurisdiction requires a future priest to complete an accredited masters’ degree in theology and successfully to pass a series of canonical examinations. In all of this, I do feel both a great joy and a heavy responsibility, because a man is not ordained for one local congregation but for the entire Church. We are challenged to provide good sound formation both for the sake of the cleric himself and for the communities which he will serve in Christ’s Name. But one can think of nothing more beautiful or more important. God bless you!


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