What does a priest promise at his ordination?

Question

“What vows and/or promises do diocesan priests make when they are ordained?”

Answer

Ah, yes…  It seems like just yesterday that my hands were clasped between Bishop David Ricken’s as I gazed into his eyes and promised respect and obedience to him and his successors. Moments later, my face “hit the marble” (well, the sandstone-and-porcelain tile floor of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral as I lay prostrate) for the Litany of the Saints. Then I rose, knelt and was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ forever. Praised be God!

When a diocesan priest is ordained, he makes six promises to God. These promises are distinct from vows that a religious brother or sister makes. They are public declarations to God — through the bishop and before God’s people — of the priest’s intention to exercise the ministry he will, by God’s grace, soon receive.

First, he promises “with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank, as a worthy fellow worker with the Order of Bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock.”

Second, he promises “to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.”

Third, he promises “to celebrate faithfully and reverently, in accord with the church’s tradition, the mysteries of Christ, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people.”

Fourth, he promises “to implore God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to (his) care by observing the command to pray without ceasing.”

Fifth, he promises “to be united more closely every day with Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a pure Sacrifice, and with him to consecrate (himself) to God for the salvation of all.”

Finally, he answers “I do” one last time to the bishop’s final question, “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” The bishop then concludes with a prayer: “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

Interestingly, two of the promises often associated with priesthood are actually made when a man is ordained a transitional deacon. At this ordination, he promises “to keep forever this commitment to remain celibate as a sign of [his] dedication to Christ the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the service of God and man,” and “to celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours with and for the people of God and indeed for the whole world.” The only promise made at both ordinations is that of obedience to the bishop.

Praise God for the gift of holy orders — a sign of his merciful love for his people, the Church!

Fr. Sladek is the administrator of St. Mark Parish, Redgranite, and Sacred Heart of Jesus, Poy Sippi.

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