"Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant"
This is often applied to those who receive the sacrament of holy orders; the sacrament that establishes bishops, priests, and deacons as legitimate leaders within the community of the Church.
There are three levels of Holy Orders:
The office of bishop in the Church can be traced back to Christ's commissioning the apostles. The bishops are the successors to the apostles. In his own diocese the bishop is head of the Church. The bishop can celebrate the sacraments of confirmation, holy orders, baptism, the Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, and be the official witness at marriages.
In the early Church, the bishops ministered to everyone. As the number of believers grew the bishops were no longer able to care for all Church members. Therefore, they ordained men to act in their place and these men were called priests. He was ordained to function in the name of the bishop. The priest is called to preach by word and action. He is the leader of worship. The priest represents Christ performing the actions of salvation for the community. He becomes a sign of Christ's presence among the people.. He takes the image of the good shepherd, he gives himself to the people of his Church and the world. The priest can celebrate the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, and be the official witness at marriages. He can celebrate confirmation in special circumstances with permission of the bishop.
The word deacon comes from a Greek word that means "servant". In the Acts of the Apostles we hear of the seven men who were elected to help the Apostles. They were instructed to assist the Apostles as they serve the people. The deacon Stephen was the first person reported to give his life as a martyr for the Church.
There are two types of deacons. The transitional deacon is the step before ordination to the priesthood. The permanent deacon can be a man who is married, or if the man is single or if his wife dies, he must remain unmarried. By his ordination the deacon reads the Gospel and can preach the homily and he is the minister of the cup at mass. The deacon can celebrate the sacrament of baptism and be the official witness at marriages.
St. Norbert Abbey
Diocese of Green Bay