January 11, 2008

Religious Vocations Supplement

What the catechism says about vocations

By Sean Gallagher

Priests, deacons, and men and women religious have been an ­integral part of the Church throughout its history and continue to be so today.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that these vocations are ultimately rooted in Christ and are an expression of his continuing life in the Church.


“Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. 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.

“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” (#1570).


“[The] 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.’ 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. ‘The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him” (#1551, quoting Lumen Gentium and St. John Chrysostom).

Religious Life

“Religious life derives from the mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord, a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful … . Thus, the Church can both show forth Christ and ­acknowledge herself to be the Savior’s bride. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time” (#926). †

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