Catechism of the Catholic Church / Part Two: The Celebration of The Christian Mystery
Section Two - The Seven Sacraments of The Church
Chapter Three - The Sacraments at The Service of Communion
Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation.
They ground the common vocation of all Christ's disciples, a vocation to
holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world. They confer the graces
needed for the life according to the Spirit during this life as pilgrims on the
march towards the homeland.
Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation
of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through
service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the
Church and serve to build up the People of God.
Through these sacraments those already consecrated by Baptism and
Confirmation1 for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive
particular consecrations. Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are
consecrated in Christ's name "to feed the Church by the word and grace of
God."2 On their part, "Christian spouses are fortified and,
as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS
Holy Orders 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: episcopate,
presbyterate, and diaconate.
(On the institution and mission of the apostolic ministry by Christ, see
above, no. 874 ff. Here only the sacramental means by which this ministry is
handed on will be treated.)
I. Why Is This Sacrament Called "Orders"?
The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body,
especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the
Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in
Sacred Scripture,4 has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or
ordines. and so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo
presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of
ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,....
Integration into one of these bodies in the Church was accomplished by a rite
called ordinatio, a religious and liturgical act which was a consecration, a
blessing or a sacrament. Today the word "ordination" is reserved for
the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops,
presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation,
delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy
Spirit that permits the exercise of a "sacred power" (sacra
potestas)5 which can come only from Christ himself through his Church.
Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart and an
investiture by Christ himself for his Church. the laying on of hands by the
bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible sign of this
II. The Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Economy of Salvation
priesthood of the Old Covenant
The chosen people was constituted by God as "a kingdom of priests and a
holy nation."6 But within the people of Israel, God chose one of
the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God
himself is its inheritance.7 A special rite consecrated the beginnings
of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. the priests are "appointed to act
on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for
Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by
sacrifices and prayer,9 this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless
to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and
being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice
of Christ would accomplish.10
The liturgy of the Church, however, sees in the priesthood of Aaron and the
service of the Levites, as in the institution of the seventy elders,11
a prefiguring of the ordained ministry of the New Covenant. Thus in the Latin
Rite the Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:
God the Father of our Lord
by your gracious word
you have established the plan
of your Church.
From the beginning,
you chose the descendants of
Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and
and did not leave your
sanctuary without ministers to serve you....12
At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:
Lord, holy Father, . . .
when you had appointed high
priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to
them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help
them in their task....
you extended the spirit of
Moses to seventy wise men....
You shared among the sons of
the fullness of their father's
In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church confesses:
Almighty God . . ..
You make the Church, Christ's
grow to its full stature as a
new and greater temple.
You enrich it with every kind
and perfect it with a
diversity of members
to serve the whole body in a
wonderful pattern of unity.
You established a threefold
ministry of worship and service,
for the glory of your name.
As ministers of your
tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blessing as
their everlasting inheritance.14
priesthood of Christ
Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its
fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the "one mediator between God and
men."15 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek,
"priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of
Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek";16
"holy, blameless, unstained,"17 "by a single offering he
has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,"18 that is,
by the unique sacrifice of the cross.
The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it
is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. the same is true of
the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial
priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ's priesthood:
"Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his
participations in the one priesthood of Christ
Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church "a
kingdom, priests for his God and Father."20 The whole community of
believers is, as such, priestly. the faithful exercise their baptismal
priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in
Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of
Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated to be . . . a holy
The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the
common priesthood of all the faithful participate, "each in its own proper
way, in the one priesthood of Christ." While being "ordered one to
another," they differ essentially.22 In what sense? While the
common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal
grace - a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit -
,the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is
directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. the
ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and
leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the
sacrament of Holy Orders.
person of Christ the Head . . .
In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is
present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest
of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by
saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in
persona Christi Capitis:23
It is the same priest, Christ
Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by
reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like
to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of
the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).24
Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure
of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of
Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the
presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the
community of believers.26 In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius
of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God
This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter
were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even
sin. the power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in
the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the
minister's sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the
minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the
Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church.
This priesthood is ministerial. "That office . . . which the Lord
committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of the term a
service."28 It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It
depends entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood; it has been instituted
for the good of men and the communion of the Church. the sacrament of Holy
Orders communicates a "sacred power" which is none other than that of
Christ. the exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the
model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of
all.29 "The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof
of love for him."30
. . .
"in the name of the whole Church"
The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ - Head
of the Church - before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the
name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and
above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice.31
"In the name of the whole Church" does not mean that priests are the
delegates of the community. the prayer and offering of the Church are
inseparable from the prayer and offering of Christ, her head; it is always the
case that Christ worships in and through his Church. the whole Church, the Body
of Christ, prays and offers herself "through him, with him, in him,"
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. the whole Body, caput et
membra, prays and offers itself, and therefore those who in the Body are
especially his ministers are called ministers not only of Christ, but also of
the Church. It is because the ministerial priesthood represents Christ that it
can represent the Church.
III. The Three Degrees of the Sacrament of Holy Orders
"The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different
degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests,
and deacons."32 Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, the
Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are
two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the
episcopacy and the presbyterate . the diaconate is intended to help and serve
them. For this reason the term sacerdos in current usage denotes bishops and
priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of
priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service
(diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called
"ordination," that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders:
Let everyone revere the
deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the
presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without
them one cannot speak of the Church.33
ordination - fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders
"Amongst those various offices which have been exercised in the Church
from the earliest times the chief place, according to the witness of tradition,
is held by the function of those who, through their appointment to the dignity
and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue consequently of the unbroken
succession going back to the beginning, are regarded as transmitters of the
To fulfil their exalted mission, "the apostles were endowed by Christ with
a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition
of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is
transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration."35
The Second Vatican Council "teaches . . . that the fullness of the
sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, that fullness
namely which, both in the liturgical tradition of the Church and the language
of the Fathers of the Church, is called the high priesthood, the acme (summa)
of the sacred ministry."36
"Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying,
also the offices of teaching and ruling.... In fact ... by the imposition of
hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit
is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in an
eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher,
shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative (in Eius persona
agant)."37 "By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who has
been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers
of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors."38
"One is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the
sacramental consecration and by the hierarchical communion with the head and
members of the college."39 The character and collegial nature of
the episcopal order are evidenced among other ways by the Church's ancient
practice which calls for several bishops to participate in the consecration of
a new bishop.40 In our day, the lawful ordination of a bishop requires
a special intervention of the Bishop of Rome, because he is the supreme visible
bond of the communion of the particular Churches in the one Church and the guarantor
of their freedom.
As Christ's vicar, each bishop has the pastoral care of the particular Church
entrusted to him, but at the same time he bears collegially with all his
brothers in the episcopacy the solicitude for all the Churches: "Though
each bishop is the lawful pastor only of the portion of the flock entrusted to
his care, as a legitimate successor of the apostles he is, by divine
institution and precept, responsible with the other bishops for the apostolic
mission of the Church."41
The above considerations explain why the Eucharist celebrated by the bishop has
a quite special significance as an expression of the Church gathered around the
altar, with the one who represents Christ, the Good Shepherd and Head of his
ordination of priests - co-workers of the bishops
"Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has, through
his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers in his
consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted in varying
degrees various members of the Church with the office of their
ministry."43 "The function of the bishops' ministry was
handed over in a subordinate degree to priests so that they might be appointed
in the order of the priesthood and be co-workers of the episcapal order for the
proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by
"Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests
shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and
rules his Body. Hence the priesthood of priests, while presupposing the
sacraments of initiation, is nevertheless conferred by its own particular
sacrament. Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit
are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest
in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head."45
"Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and
notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of
their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by
reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy
Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are
consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as
to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions
of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. the spiritual gift they
have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted
mission, "but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation
'to the end of the earth,"'47 "prepared in spirit to preach
the Gospel everywhere."48
"It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the
faithful (synaxis) that they exercise in a supreme degree their sacred office;
there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they unite
the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and
in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the
coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of
Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the
Father."49 From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly
ministry draws its strength.50
"The priests, prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its support
and instrument, called to the service of the People of God, constitute,
together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college (presbyterium)
dedicated, it is, true to a variety of distinct duties. In each local assembly
of the faithful they represent, in a certain sense, the bishop, with whom they
are associated in all trust and generosity; in part they take upon themselves
his duties and solicitude and in their daily toils discharge
them."51 priests can exercise their ministry only in dependence on
the bishop and in communion with him. the promise of obedience they make to the
bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss of peace from him at the end of
the ordination liturgy mean that the bishop considers them his co-workers, his
sons, his brothers and his friends, and that they in return owe him love and
"All priests, who are constituted in the order of priesthood by the
sacrament of Order, are bound together by an intimate sacramental brotherhood,
but in a special way they form one priestly body in the diocese to which they
are attached under their own bishop. . ;"52 The unity of the
presbyterium finds liturgical expression in the custom of the presbyters'
imposing hands, after the bishop, during the Ate of ordination.
ordination of deacons - "in order to serve"
"At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive
the imposition of hands 'not unto the priesthood, but unto the
ministry."'53 At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop
lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon's special attachment to
the bishop in the tasks of his "diakonia."54
Deacons share in Christ's mission and grace in a special way.55 The
sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (“character") which
cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the
"deacon" or servant of all.56 Among other tasks, it is the
task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine
mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in
assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and
preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the
various ministries of charity.57
Since the Second Vatican Council the Latin Church has restored the diaconate
"as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy,"58 while the
Churches of the East had always maintained it. This permanent diaconate, which
can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment for the
Church's mission. Indeed it is appropriate and useful that men who carry out a
truly diaconal ministry in the Church, whether in its liturgical and pastoral
life or whether in its social and charitable works, should "be
strengthened by the imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles.
They would be more closely bound to the altar and their ministry would be made
more fruitful through the sacramental grace of the diaconate."59
IV. The Celebration of This Sacrament
Given the importance that the ordination of a bishop, a priest, or a deacon has
for the life of the particular Church, its celebration calls for as many of the
faithful as possible to take part. It should take place preferably on Sunday,
in the cathedral, with solemnity appropriate to the occasion. All three
ordinations, of the bishop, of the pRiest, and of the deacon, follow the same
movement. Their proper place is within the Eucharistic liturgy.
The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders for all three degrees
consists in the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and in
the bishop's specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is
As in all
the sacraments additional rites surround the celebration. Varying greatly among
the different liturgical traditions, these rites have in common the expression
of the multiple aspects of sacramental grace. Thus in the Latin Church, the
initial rites - presentation and election of the ordinand, instruction by the
bishop, examination of the candidate, litany of the saints - attest that the
choice of the candidate is made in keeping with the practice of the Church and
prepare for the solemn act of consecration, after which several rites
syrnbolically express and complete the mystery accomplished: for bishop and
priest, an anointing with holy chrism, a sign of the special anointing of the
Holy Spirit who makes their ministry fruitful; giving the book of the Gospels,
the ring, the miter, and the crosier to the bishop as the sign of his apostolic
mission to proclaim the Word of God, of his fidelity to the Church, the bride
of Christ, and his office as shepherd of the Lord's flock; presentation to the
priest of the paten and chalice, "the offering of the holy people"
which he is called to present to God; giving the book of the Gospels to the
deacon who has just received the mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
V. Who Can Confer This Sacrament?
Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his mission and
authority. Raised to the Father's right hand, he has not forsaken his flock but
he keeps it under his constant protection through the apostles, and guides it
still through these same pastors who continue his work today.61 Thus,
it is Christ whose gift it is that some be apostles, others pastors. He
continues to act through the bishops.62
Since the sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament of the apostolic ministry,
it is for the bishops as the successors of the apostles to hand on the
"gift of the Spirit,"63 The "apostolic
line."64 Validly ordained bishops, i.e., those who are in the line
of apostolic succession, validly confer the three degrees of the sacrament of
VI. Who Can Receive This Sacrament?
"Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred
ordination."66 The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college
of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose
collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.67 The college of
bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college
of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return.
the Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord
himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.68
No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one
claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.69 Anyone who
thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry must
humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the
responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace
this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.
All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent
deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life
and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of
heaven."70 Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to
the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord,"71 they give
themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to
the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a
joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.72
In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many
centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men
can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered
legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their
communities.73 Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in
the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the
Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the
sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.
VII. The Effects of the Sacrament of Holy Orders
This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the
Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By
ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the
Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.
As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ's office is
granted once for all. the sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers
an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred
true that someone validly ordained can, for a just reason, be discharged from
the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can be forbidden to
exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the strict
sense,75 because the character imprinted by ordination is for ever. the
vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him
Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the
ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from
acting.76 St. Augustine states this forcefully:
As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's
gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what
passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth.... the spiritual
power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened
receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is
not itself defiled.77
of the Holy Spirit
The grace of the Holy Spirit proper to this sacrament is configuration to
Christ as Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, of whom the ordained is made a minister.
For the bishop, this is first of all a grace of strength (“the governing
spirit": Prayer of Episcopal Consecration in the Latin rite):78
The grace to guide and defend his Church with strength and prudence as a father
and pastor, with gratuitous love for all and a preferential love for the poor,
the sick, and the needy. This grace impels him to proclaim the Gospel to all,
to be the model for his flock, to go before it on the way of sanctification by
identifying himself in the Eucharist with Christ the priest and victim, not
fearing to give his life for his sheep:
Father, you know all hearts.
You have chosen your servant
for the office of bishop.
May he be a shepherd to your
and a high priest blameless in
ministering to you night and
may he always gain the
blessing of your favor
and offer the gifts of your
Through the Spirit who gives
the grace of high priesthood grant him the power
to forgive sins as you have
to assign ministries as you
and to loose from every bond
by the authority which you
gave to your apostles. May he
be pleasing to you by his gentleness and purity of heart,
presenting a fragrant offering
through Jesus Christ, your
The spiritual gift conferred by presbyteral ordination is expressed by this
prayer of the Byzantine Rite. the bishop, while laying on his hand, says among
Lord, fill with the gift of
the Holy Spirit
him whom you have deigned to
raise to the rank of the priesthood,
that he may be worthy to stand
without reproach before your altar
to proclaim the Gospel of your
to fulfill the ministry of
your word of truth,
to offer you spiritual gifts
to renew your people by the
bath of rebirth;
so that he may go out to meet
our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, your only Son,
on the day of his second
and may receive from your vast
the recompense for a faithful
administration of his order.80
With regard to deacons, "strengthened by sacramental grace they are
dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of
priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel, and of works
Before the grandeur of the priestly grace and office, the holy doctors felt an
urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole lives to him whose
sacrament had made them ministers. Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as a very
young priest, exclaimed:
We must begin by purifying
ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to
instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to
others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I
know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I
know God's greatness and man's weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is
the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory
with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares
Christ's priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God's image, recreates
it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes.82
and the holy Cure of Ars: "The priest continues the work of redemption on
earth.... If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of
fright but of love.... the Priesthood is the love of the heart of
1590 St. Paul said to his
disciple Timothy: "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within
you through the laying on of my hands" (⇒ 2Tim
1:6), and "If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he
desires a noble task." (⇒ 1 Tim 3:1) To
Titus he said: "This is why I left you in Crete, that you amend what was
defective, and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you" (⇒ Titus
1591 The whole Church is a
priestly people. Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of
Christ. This participation is called the "common priesthood of the
faithful." Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service,
there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry
conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the
name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community.
1592 The ministerial
priesthood differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful
because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. the ordained
ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching (munus
docendi), divine worship (munus liturgicum) and pastoral governance (munus
1593 Since the beginning, the
ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of
bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. the ministries conferred by
ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without
the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church (cf St.
Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1).
1594 The bishop receives the
fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates him into the
episcopal college and makes him the visible head of the particular Church
entrusted to him. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the
bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church
under the authority of the Pope, successor of St. Peter.
1595 Priests are united with
the bishops in sacerdotal dignity and at the same time depend on them in the
exercise of their pastoral functions; they are called to be the bishops'
prudent co-workers. They form around their bishop the presbyterium which bears
responsibility with him for the particular Church. They receive from the bishop
the charge of a parish community or a determinate ecclesial office.
1596 Deacons are ministers
ordained for tasks of service of the Church; they do not receive the
ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on them important functions in
the ministry of the word, divine worship, pastoral governance, and the service
of charity, tasks which they must carry out under the pastoral authority of
1597 The sacrament of Holy
Orders is conferred by the laying on of hands followed by a solemn prayer of
consecration asking God to grant the ordinand the graces of the Holy Spirit
required for his ministry. Ordination imprints an indelible sacramental
1598 The Church confers the
sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men (viri), whose suitability for the
exercise of the ministry has been duly recognized. Church authority alone has
the responsibility and right to call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy
1599 In the Latin Church the
sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on
candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest
their intention of staying celibate for the love of God's kingdom and the
service of men.
1600 It is bishops who confer
the sacrament of Holy Orders in the three degrees.
THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY
"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between
themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward
the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this
covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the
dignity of a sacrament."84
I. Marriage in God's Plan
Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and
likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the wedding-feast of the
Lamb."85 Scripture speaks throughout of marriage and its
"mystery," its institution and the meaning God has given it, its
origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of
salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal "in the Lord"
in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church.86
the order of creation
"The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married
state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own
proper laws.... God himself is the author of marriage."87 The
vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they
came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution
despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in
different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These
differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent
characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent
everywhere with the same clarity,88 some sense of the greatness of the
matrimonial union exists in all cultures. "The well-being of the
individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up
with the healthy state of conjugal and family life."89
God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and
innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and
likeness of God who is himself love.90 Since God created him man and
woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love
with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. and
this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in
the common work of watching over creation: "and God blessed them, and God
said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue
Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another:
"It is not good that the man should be alone."92 The woman,
"flesh of his flesh," i.e., his counterpart, his equal, his nearest
in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus
represents God from whom comes our help.93 "Therefore a man leaves
his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one
flesh."94 The Lord himself shows that this signifies an
unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator
had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one
under the regime of sin
Every man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes
itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always
been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and
conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can
manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome
according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does
seem to have a universal character.
According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the
nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin.
As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of
the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by
mutual recriminations;96 their mutual attraction, the Creator's own
gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust;97 and the
beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the
earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.98
Nevertheless, the order of creation persists, though seriously disturbed. To
heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in
his infinite mercy never refuses them.99 Without his help man and woman
cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them "in the
under the pedagogy of the Law
In his mercy God has not forsaken sinful man. the punishments consequent upon
sin, "pain in childbearing" and toil "in the sweat of your
brow,"100 also embody remedies that limit the damaging effects of
sin. After the fall, marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism,
pursuit of one's own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid
and to self-giving.
Moral conscience concerning the unity and indissolubility of marriage developed
under the pedagogy of the old law. In the Old Testament the polygamy of
patriarchs and kings is not yet explicitly rejected. Nevertheless, the law
given to Moses aims at protecting the wife from arbitrary domination by the
husband, even though according to the Lord's words it still carries traces of
man's "hardness of heart" which was the reason Moses permitted men to
divorce their wives.101
Seeing God's covenant with Israel in the image of exclusive and faithful
married love, the prophets prepared the Chosen People's conscience for a
deepened understanding of the unity and indissolubility of marriage.102
The books of Ruth and Tobit bear moving witness to an elevated sense of
marriage and to the fidelity and tenderness of spouses. Tradition has always
seen in the Song of Solomon a unique expression of human love, a pure
reflection of God's love - a love "strong as death" that "many
waters cannot quench."103
The nuptial covenant between God and his people Israel had prepared the way for
the new and everlasting covenant in which the Son of God, by becoming incarnate
and giving his life, has united to himself in a certain way all mankind saved
by him, thus preparing for "the wedding-feast of the
On the threshold of his public life Jesus performs his first sign - at his mother's
request - during a wedding feast.105 The Church attaches great
importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the
confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth
marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence.
In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union
of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given
by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of
hearts.106 The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God
himself has determined it "what therefore God has joined together, let no
man put asunder."107
This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may
have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize.
However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too
heavy - heavier than the Law of Moses.108 By coming to restore the
original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and
grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by
following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that
spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage
and live it with the help of Christ.109 This grace of Christian
marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life.
This is what the Apostle Paul makes clear when he says: "Husbands, love
your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he
might sanctify her," adding at once: "'For this reason a man shall
leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become
one. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the
The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the
Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial
mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath111 which precedes the
wedding feast, the Eucharist. Christian marriage in its turn becomes an
efficacious sign, the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and the Church. Since
it signifies and communicates grace, marriage between baptized persons is a
true sacrament of the New Covenant.112
for the sake of the Kingdom
Christ is the center of all Christian life. the bond with him takes precedence
over all other bonds, familial or social.113 From the very beginning of
the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of
marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the
Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is
coming.114 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in
this way of life, of which he remains the model:
"For there are eunuchs
who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs
by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of
the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive
Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal
grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the
ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a
reality of this present age which is passing away.116
Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from
the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace
which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his
will.117 Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom118 and
the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce
Whoever denigrates marriage
also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more
admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would
not be truly good. the most excellent good is something even better than what
is admitted to be good.119
II. The Celebration of Marriage
In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful
normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the
sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ.120 In the Eucharist the
memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has
united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave
himself up.121 It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal
their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their
own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present
in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that,
communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but
"one body" in Christ.122
"Inasmuch as it is a sacramental action of sanctification, the liturgical
celebration of marriage . . . must be, per se, valid, worthy, and
fruitful."123 It is therefore appropriate for the bride and groom
to prepare themselves for the celebration of their marriage by receiving the
sacrament of penance.
In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as ministers
of Christ's grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony
by expressing their consent before the Church. In the Eastern liturgies the
minister of this sacrament (which is called "Crowning") is the priest
or bishop who, after receiving the mutual consent of the spouses, successively
crowns the bridegroom and the bride as a sign of the marriage covenant.
The various liturgies abound in prayers of blessing and epiclesis asking God's
grace and blessing on the new couple, especially the bride. In the epiclesis of
this sacrament the spouses receive the Holy Spirit as the communion of love of
Christ and the Church.124 The Holy Spirit is the seal of their
covenant, the ever available source of their love and the strength to renew
III. Matrimonial Consent
The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to
contract marriage, who freely express their consent; "to be free"
- not being under constraint;
- not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.
The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the
indispensable element that "makes the marriage."125 If
consent is lacking there is no marriage.
The consent consists in a "human act by which the partners mutually give
themselves to each other": "I take you to be my wife" - "I
take you to be my husband."126 This consent that binds the spouses
to each other finds its fulfillment in the two "becoming one
The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free
of coercion or grave external fear.128 No human power can substitute
for this consent.129 If this freedom is lacking the marriage is
For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void)
the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical
tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never
existed.130 In this case the contracting parties are free to marry,
provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged.131
The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives
the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of
the Church. the presence of the Church's minister (and also of the witnesses)
visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality.
This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract
marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons converge to
explain this requirement:132
- Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it
should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church;
- Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and
duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children; - Since
marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary
(hence the obligation to have witnesses);
- the public character of the consent protects the "I do" once given
and helps the spouses remain faithful to it.
So that the "I do" of the spouses may be a free and responsible act
and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and
Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of prime importance.
The example and teaching given by parents and families remain the
special form of this preparation.
The role of pastors and of the Christian community as the "family of
God" is indispensable for the transmission of the human and Christian
values of marriage and family,133 and much more so in our era when many
young people experience broken homes which no longer sufficiently assure this
It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people, above
all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married love, its
role and its exercise, so that, having learned the value of chastity, they will
be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable courtship and enter upon a
marriage of their own.134
marriages and disparity of cult
many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic
and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on
the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of
cult (between a Catholic and a nonbaptized person) requires even greater
of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable
obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have
received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way
in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed
marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the
separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. the spouses risk
experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own
home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences
about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious
mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards
the education of children. the temptation to religious indifference can then
to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the
express permission of ecclesiastical authority.135 In case of disparity
of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the
validity of the marriage.136 This permission or dispensation
presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and
properties of marriage and the obligations assumed by the Catholic party
concerning the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic
ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions have been able to put
into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed marriages. Its task is to help
such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith,
overcome the tensions between the couple's obligations to each other and
towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is
common to them in faith and respect for what separates them.
marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a particular task:
"For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the
unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband."138 It is a
great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this
"consecration" should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse
to the Christian faith.139 Sincere married love, the humble and patient
practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the
non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion.
IV. The Effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony
"From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very
nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the
spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the
dignity of their state by a special sacrament."140
The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is
sealed by God himself.141 From their covenant arises "an
institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of
society."142 The covenant between the spouses is integrated into
God's covenant with man: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine
Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a
marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be
dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and
their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and
gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. the Church does not have
the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.144
of the sacrament of Matrimony
"By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses]
have their own special gifts in the People of God."145 This grace
proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple's love
and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they "help one
another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating
Christ is the source of this grace. "Just as of old God encountered his
people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the
Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of
Matrimony."147 Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to
take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen,
to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to
one another out of reverence for Christ,"148 and to love one
another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love
and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of
How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church,
strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and
ratified by the Father? . . . How wonderful the bond between two believers, now
one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They
are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in
spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is
V. The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love
"Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the
person enter - appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and
affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal
unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and
soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving;
and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal
characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which
not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making
them the expression of specifically Christian values."150
and indissolubility of marriage
The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and
indissolubility of the spouses' community of persons, which embraces their
entire life: "so they are no longer two, but one flesh."151
They "are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day
fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual
self-giving."152 This human communion is confirmed, purified, and
completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of
Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist
"The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear
in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual
and unreserved affection."153 Polygamy is contrary to conjugal
love which is undivided and exclusive.154
fidelity of conjugal love
By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses.
This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each
other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement "until
further notice." the "intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving
of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the
spouses and require an unbreakable union between them."155
The deepest reason is found in the fidelity of God to his covenant, in that of
Christ to his Church. Through the sacrament of Matrimony the spouses are
enabled to represent this fidelity and witness to it. Through the sacrament,
the indissolubility of marriage receives a new and deeper meaning.
It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another
human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News
that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples
share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own
faithfulness they can be witnesses to God's faithful love. Spouses who with
God's grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the
gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.156
there are some situations in which living together becomes practically
impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the
physical separation of the couple and their living apart. the spouses do not
cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new
union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible,
reconciliation. the Christian community is called to help these persons live
out their situation in a Christian manner and in fidelity to their marriage bond
which remains indissoluble.157
there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil
divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ
- "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against
her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits
adultery"158 The Church maintains that a new union cannot be
recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried
civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's
law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this
situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial
responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be
granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the
covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete
Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire
to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole
community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider
themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must
participate as baptized persons:
They should be encouraged to
listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in
prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice,
to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and
practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace.159
openness to fertility
"By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is
ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them
that it finds its crowning glory."160
Children are the supreme gift
of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself
said: "It is not good that man should be alone," and "from the
beginning (he) made them male and female"; wishing to associate them in a
special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words:
"Be fruitful and multiply." Hence, true married love and the whole
structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the
other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate
valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will
increase and enrich his family from day to day.161
The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral,
spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by
education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their
children.162 In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family
is to be at the service of life.163
Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal
life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can
radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.
VI. The Domestic Church
Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph
and Mary. the Church is nothing other than "the family of God." From
the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had
become believers "together with all [their] household."164
When they were converted, they desired that "their whole household"
should also be saved.165 These families who became believers were
islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.
In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing
families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For
this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the
family the Ecclesia domestica.166 It is in the bosom of the family that
parents are "by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with
regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is
proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation."167
It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members
of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way
"by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of
a holy life, and self-denial and active charity."168 Thus the home
is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human
enrichment."169 Here one learns endurance and the joy of work,
fraternal love, generous - even repeated - forgiveness, and above all divine
worship in prayer and the offering of one's life.
We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the
particular circumstances in which they have to live - often not of their choosing
- are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special
affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors. Many
remain without a human family often due to conditions of poverty. Some live
their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in
exemplary fashion. the doors of homes, the "domestic churches," and
of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. "No
one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for
everyone, especially those who 'labor and are heavy laden.'"170
1659 St. Paul said:
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church.... This is a great
mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church"
1660 The marriage covenant,
by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life
and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the
Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as
to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage
between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf
⇒ CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS 48 # 1).
1661 The sacrament of
Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the
grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church;
the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses,
strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal
life (cf Council of Trent: DS 1799).
1662 Marriage is based on the
consent of the contracting parties, that is, on their will to give themselves,
each to the other, mutually and definitively, in order to live a covenant of
faithful and fruitful love.
1663 Since marriage
establishes the couple in a public state of life in the Church, it is fitting
that its celebration be public, in the framework of a liturgical celebration,
before the priest (or a witness authorized by the Church), the witnesses, and
the assembly of the faithful.
1664 Unity, indissolubility,
and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible
with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the
refusal of fertility turns married life away from its "supreme gift,"
the child (GS 50 # 1).
1665 The remarriage of
persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of
God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they
cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially
by educating their children in the faith.
1666 The Christian home is
the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this
reason the family home is rightly called "the domestic church," a
community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian
Chapter Four - Other Liturgical Celebrations
"Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are
sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects,
particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession
of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the
sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy."171
characteristics of sacramentals
Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the
Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian
life, and the use of many things helpful to man. In accordance with bishops'
pastoral decisions, they can also respond to the needs, culture, and special
history of the Christian people of a particular region or time. They always
include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on
of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls
Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is
called to be a "blessing," and to bless.172 Hence lay people
may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and
sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained
ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).173
Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the
sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and
dispose us to cooperate with it. "For well-disposed members of the
faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost
every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal
mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all
sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use
of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of
men and the praise of God."174
forms of sacramentals
sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first.
Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are
blessed by God the Father "with every spiritual blessing."175
This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually
while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.
blessings have a lasting importance because they consecrate persons to God, or
reserve objects and places for liturgical use. Among those blessings which are
intended for persons - not to be confused with sacramental ordination - are the
blessing of the abbot or abbess of a monastery, the consecration of virgins,
the rite of religious profession and the blessing of certain ministries of the
Church (readers, acolytes, catechists, etc.). the dedication or blessing of a
church or an altar, the blessing of holy oils, vessels, and vestments, bells,
etc., can be mentioned as examples of blessings that concern objects.
the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a
person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn
from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from
him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.176 In a
simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. the solemn
exorcism, called "a major exorcism," can be performed only by a priest
and with the permission of the bishop. the priest must proceed with prudence,
strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at
the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through
the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness,
especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is
the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it
is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil
One, and not an illness.177
Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account
the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. the religious
sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of
piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of
relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the
cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,178 etc.
These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church, but do not
replace it. They "should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the
liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some way derived
from it and lead the people to it, since in fact the liturgy by its very nature
is far superior to any of them."179
Pastoral discernment is needed to sustain and support popular piety and, if necessary,
to purify and correct the religious sense which underlies these devotions so
that the faithful may advance in knowledge of the mystery of Christ.180
Their exercise is subject to the care and judgment of the bishops and to the
general norms of the Church.
At its core the piety of the
people is a storehouse of values that offers answers of Christian wisdom to the
great questions of life. the Catholic wisdom of the people is capable of
fashioning a vital synthesis.... It creatively combines the divine and the
human, Christ and Mary, spirit and body, communion and institution, person and
community, faith and homeland, intelligence and emotion. This wisdom is a
Christian humanism that radically affirms the dignity of every person as a
child of God, establishes a basic fraternity, teaches people to encounter
nature and understand work, provides reasons for joy and humor even in the
midst of a very hard life. For the people this wisdom is also a principle of
discernment and an evangelical instinct through which they spontaneously sense
when the Gospel is served in the Church and when it is emptied of its content
and stifled by other interests.181
1677 Sacramentals are sacred
signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the
sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.
1678 Among the sacramentals
blessings occupy an important place. They include both praise of God for his
works and gifts, and the Church's intercession for men that they may be able to
use God's gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel.
1679 In addition to the
liturgy, Christian life is nourished by various forms of popular piety, rooted
in the different cultures. While carefully clarifying them in the light of
faith, the Church fosters the forms of popular piety that express an
evangelical instinct and a human wisdom and that enrich Christian life.
All the sacraments, and principally those of Christian initiation, have as
their goal the last Passover of the child of God which, through death, leads
him into the life of the Kingdom. Then what he confessed in faith and hope will
be fulfilled: "I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of
the world to come."182
I. The Christian's Last Passover
The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal mystery
of the death and resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope. the
Christian who dies in Christ Jesus is "away from the body and at home with
For the Christian the day of death inaugurates, at the end of his sacramental
life, the fulfillment of his new birth begun at Baptism, the definitive
"conformity" to "the image of the Son" conferred by the
anointing of the Holy Spirit, and participation in the feast of the Kingdom
which was anticipated in the Eucharist - even if final purifications are still
necessary for him in order to be clothed with the nuptial garment.
The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb
during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey's end, in order
to surrender him "into the Father's hands." She offers to the Father,
in Christ, the child of his grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the
seed of the body that will rise in glory.184 This offering is fully
celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice; the blessings before and after Mass
II. The Celebration of Funerals
Christian funeral confers on the deceased neither a sacrament nor a sacramental
since he has "passed" beyond the sacramental economy. It is
nonetheless a liturgical celebration of the Church.185 The ministry of
the Church aims at expressing efficacious communion with the deceased, at the
participation in that communion of the community gathered for the funeral and
at the proclamation of eternal life to the community.
different funeral rites express the Paschal character of Christian death and
are in keeping with the situations and traditions of each region, even as to
the color of the liturgical vestments worn.186
Order of Christian Funerals (Ordo exsequiarum) of the Roman liturgy gives three
types of funeral celebrations, corresponding to the three places in which they
are conducted (the home, the church, and the cemetery), and according to the
importance attached to them by the family, local customs, the culture, and
popular piety. This order of celebration is common to all the liturgical
traditions and comprises four principal elements:
greeting of the community. A greeting of faith begins the celebration.
Relatives and friends of the deceased are welcomed with a word of
"consolation" (in the New Testament sense of the Holy Spirit's power
in hope).187 The community assembling in prayer also awaits the
"words of eternal life." the death of a member of the community (or
the anniversary of a death, or the seventh or fortieth day after death) is an
event that should lead beyond the perspectives of "this world" and
should draw the faithful into the true perspective of faith in the risen
liturgy of the Word during funerals demands very careful preparation because
the assembly present for the funeral may include some faithful who rarely
attend the liturgy, and friends of the deceased who are not Christians. the
homily in particular must "avoid the literary genre of funeral eulogy"188
and illumine the mystery of Christian death in the light of the risen Christ.
Eucharistic Sacrifice. When the celebration takes place in church the Eucharist
is the heart of the Paschal reality of Christian death.189 In the
Eucharist, the Church expresses her efficacious communion with the departed:
offering to the Father in the Holy Spirit the sacrifice of the death and
resurrection of Christ, she asks to purify his child of his sins and their
consequences, and to admit him to the Paschal fullness of the table of the
Kingdom.190 It is by the Eucharist thus celebrated that the community
of the faithful, especially the family of the deceased, learn to live in
communion with the one who "has fallen asleep in the Lord," by
communicating in the Body of Christ of which he is a living member and, then,
by praying for him and with him.
farewell to the deceased is his final "commendation to God" by the
Church. It is "the last farewell by which the Christian community greets
one of its members before his body is brought to its tomb."191 The
Byzantine tradition expresses this by the kiss of farewell to the deceased:
By this final greeting
"we sing for his departure from this life and separation from us, but also
because there is a communion and a reunion. For even dead, we are not at all
separated from one another, because we all run the same course and we will find
one another again in the same place. We shall never be separated, for we live
for Christ, and now we are united with Christ as we go toward him . . . we
shall all be together in Christ."192
1 Cf. LG 10.
2 LG 11 # 2.
3 GS 48 # 2.
4 Cf. ⇒ Heb 5:6;
⇒ Ps 110:4.
5 Cf. LG 10.
7 Cf. ⇒ Num 1:48-53;
⇒ Josh 13:33.
⇒ Mal 2:7-9.
10 Cf. ⇒ 7:27;
⇒ Num 11:24-25.
Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration.
13 Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Priests 22, Prayer of
14 Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Deacons 21, Prayer of
15 ⇒ 2 Tim 2:5.
⇒ Gen 14:18.
17 ⇒ Heb 7:26.
18 ⇒ Heb 10:14.
19 St. Thomas Aquinas, ⇒ Hebr. 8, 4.
20 ⇒ Rev 5:9-10;
⇒ 1 Pet 2:5,
21 LG 10 # 1.
22 LG 10 # 2.
23 Cf. LG 10; 28; SC 33; CD 11; PO 2; 6.
24 Pius XII, encyclical, Mediator Dei: AAS, 39 (1947) 548.
25 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 22, 4c.
26 Cf. LG 21.
Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3, 1: SCh 10, 96; cf. Ad Magn. 6, 1:
SCh 10, 82-84.
28 LG 24.
29 Cf. ⇒ Mk 10 43-45;
⇒ 1 Pet 5:3.
30 St. John Chrysostom, De sac. 2, 4: PG 48, 636; cf.
⇒ Jn 21:15-17.
31 Cf. SC 33N; LG
32 LG 28.
33 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1: SCh 10, 96.
34 LG 20.
35 LG 21; Cf. ⇒ Acts 1:8;
20:22-23; ⇒ 1 Tim 4:14;
⇒ 2 Tim 1:6-7.
36 LG 21 # 2.
37 LG 21.
38 CD 2 # 2.
39 LG 22.
40 Cf. LG 22.
41 Pius XII, Fidei donum: AAS 49 (1957) 237; cf. LG 23; CD 4; 36; 37;
AG 5; 6; 38.
42 Cf. SC 41; LG 26.
43 LG 28; cf. ⇒ Jn 10:36.
44 PO 2 # 2.
45 PO 2.
46 LG 28 cf. ⇒ Heb 5:1-10;
⇒ 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:
PL 20, 554 A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2, 22: PG 35, 432B.
47 PO 10; OT 20; cf. ⇒ Acts 1:8.
48 OT 20.
49 LG 28; cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 11:26.
50 Cf. PO 2.
51 LG 28 # 2.
52 PO 8.
53 LG 29; cf. CD 15.
54 Cf. St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 8: SCh 11, 58-62.
55 Cf. LG 41; AA
56 Cf. ⇒ Mk 10:45;
⇒ Lk 22:27; St. Polycarp, Ad Phil. 5, 2: SCh
57 Cf. LG 29; SC 35 # 4; AG 16.
58 LG 29 # 2.
59 AG 16 # 6.
60 Cf. Pius XII, apostolic constitution, Sacramentum Ordinis: DS
61 Cf. Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.
62 Cf. LG 21; ⇒ Eph 4:11.
63 LG 21 # 2.
64 LG 20.
65 Cf. DS 794 and Cf. DS 802; ⇒ CIC, can.
1012; CCEO, can. 744; 747.
⇒ CIC, can. 1024.
67 Cf. ⇒ Mk 3:14-19;
⇒ 1 Tim
3:1-13; ⇒ 2 Tim 1:6;
⇒ Titus 1:5-9; St.
Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 42, 4; 44, 3: PG 1, 292-293; 300.
68 Cf. John
Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, declaration, Inter insigniores: AAS 69
⇒ Heb 5:4.
70 ⇒ Mt 19:12.
⇒ 1 Cor 7:32.
72 Cf. PO 16.
73 Cf. PO 16.
74 Cf. Council of Trent: 1 DS 1767; LG 21; 28; 29; PO 2.
75 Cf. ⇒ CIC, cann. 290-293;
⇒ 1336 # 1 3,
⇒ 1338 # 2;
Council of Trent DS 1774.
76 Cf. Council of Trent DS 1612; DS 1154.
77 St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 5,15: PL 35, 1422.
78 Cf. Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of
cf. CD 13; 16.
79 Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of
St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 3: SCh ll, 44-46.
80 Byzantine Liturgy, Euchologion.
81 LG 29.
82 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2, 71, 74, 73: PG 35, 480-481.
83 St. John Vianney, quoted in B. Nodet, Jean-Marie Vianney, Cure' d'
84 ⇒ CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS 48 # 1.
85 ⇒ Rev 19:7,
9; cf. ⇒ Gen 1:26-27.
86 ⇒ 1 Cor 7:39; cf.
⇒ Eph 5:31-32.
87 GS 48 # 1.
88 Cf. GS 47 # 2.
89 GS 47 # 1.
90 Cf. ⇒ Gen 1:27;
91 ⇒ Gen 1:28; cf.
92 ⇒ Gen 2:18.
93 Cf. ⇒ Gen 2:18-25.
94 ⇒ Gen 2:24.
95 ⇒ Mt 19:6.
96 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:12.
97 Cf. ⇒ Gen 2:22;
98 Cf. ⇒ 3:16-19.
99 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:21.
100 :/]; ⇒ Gen 3:16, 19.
101 Cf. ⇒ Mt 19:8;
⇒ Deut 24:1.
102 Cf. ⇒ Hos 1-3;
⇒ Isa 54;
2-3; ⇒ Ezek
16; ⇒ 23;
⇒ Mal 2:13-17.
⇒ Song 8:6-7.
104 ⇒ Rev 19:7, 9;
cf. GS 22.
105 Cf. ⇒ Jn 2:1-11.
106 Cf. ⇒ Mt
107 ⇒ Mt 19:6.
108 Cf. ⇒ Mk 8:34;
⇒ Mt 11:29-30.
109 Cf. ⇒ Mt 19:11.
110 ⇒ Eph 5:25-26,
⇒ Gen 2:24.
111 Cf. ⇒ Eph 5:26-27.
112 Cf. DS 1800; ⇒ CIC, Can. 1055 # 2.
113 Cf. ⇒ Lk 14:26;
⇒ Mk 10:28-31.
114 Cf. ⇒ Rev 14:4;
⇒ 1 Cor 7:32; Mt
115 ⇒ Mt 19:12.
116 Cf. ⇒ Mk 12:25;
⇒ 1 Cor 7:31.
117 Cf. ⇒ Mt 19:3-12.
118 Cf. LG 42; PC 12; OT 10.
119 St. John
Chrysostom, De virg. 10, 1 PG 48, 540; Cf. John Paul II, FC 16.
120 Cf. SC 61.
121 Cf. LG 6.
122 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 10:17.
123 FC 67.
124 Cf. ⇒ Eph 5:32.
125 ⇒ CIC, can. 1057 # 1.
126 GS 48 # 1; OCM 45; cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1057 # 2.
10:8; ⇒ Eph 5:31.
128 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1103.
129 Cf. ⇒ CIC,
can. 1057 # 1.
130 Cf. ⇒ CIC, cann. 1095-1107.
131 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1071.
132 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1813-1816; ⇒ CIC,
133 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1063.
134 GS 49 # 3.
135 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1124.
136 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1086.
137 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1125.
138 ⇒ 1 Cor 7:14.
⇒ 1 Cor 7:16.
140 Cf. ⇒ CIC,
141 Cf. ⇒ Mk 10:9.
142 GS 48 # 1.
143 GS 48 # 2.
144 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1141.
145 LG 11 # 2.
146 LG 11 # 2; cf. LG 41.
147 GS 48 # 2.
148 ⇒ Gal
149 Tertullian, Ad uxorem. 2, 8, 6-7: PL 1, 1412-1413; cf. FC 13.
150 FC 13.
151 ⇒ Mt 19:6; cf.
⇒ Gen 2:24.
152 FC 19.
153 GS 49 # 2.
154 Cf. FC 19.
155 GS 48 # 1.
156 Cf. FC 20.
157 Cf. FC 83; ⇒ CIC, cann. 1151-1155.
158 ⇒ Mk 10:11-12.
159 FC 84.
160 GS 48 # 1; 50.
161 GS 50 # 1; cf. ⇒ Gen 2:18;
⇒ Gen 1:28.
162 Cf. GE 3.
163 Cf. FC 28.
164 Cf. ⇒ Acts
165 Cf. ⇒ Acts 16:31;
⇒ Acts 11:14.
166 LG 11; cf. FC 21.
167 LG 11.
168 LG 10.
169 GS 52 # 1.
170 FC 85; cf. ⇒ Mt 11:28.
171 SC 60; Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1166; CCEO, can.
172 Cf. ⇒ Gen 12:2;
12:14; ⇒ 1 Pet 3:9.
173 Cf. SC 79;
⇒ CIC, can. 1168; De Ben 16, 18.
174 SC 61.
175 ⇒ Eph 1:3.
176 Cf. ⇒ Mk 1:25-26;
⇒ CIC, can. 1172.
178 Cf. Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; 603; Council of Trent: DS 1822.
179 SC 13 # 3.
180 Cf. John Paul II, CT 54.
181 CELAM, Third General Conference (Puebla, 1979), Final Document #
1979); cf. Paul VI, EN 48.
182 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
183 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:8.
184 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 15:42-44.
185 Cf. SC 81-82.
186 Cf. SC
187 Cf. ⇒ 1 Thess 4:18.
188 OCF 41.
189 Cf. OCF 41.
190 Cf. OCF 57.
191 OCF 10.
192 St. Simeon of Thessalonica, De ordine sepulturae. 336: PG 155,
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