Ordination to the priesthood takes place within the context of the Catholic Mass. The rite, most of which dates back many centuries, is punctuated with a number of distinct parts which are described below with both text and pictures. It is a time of great joy and celebration on the part of the newly ordained priest, his family and friends, and all of those who have supported and encouraged him along the journey of his vocation. The celebration continues with a reception following the Mass of Ordination. The following day, or shortly thereafter, the new priest celebrates his first Mass giving thanks to God and to all of those who have helped him along the way. Family and friends usually gather for this special Mass.
Ordained as deacons several months before, the ordinands gather for the Mass of priestly ordination dressed in albs and the diagonally-worn stoles of deacons.
Many priest friends join in the ordination of their brothers to the one common priesthood of Christ.
Calling of the Candidates
After the opening prayers of the Mass and the scripture readings, the ordaining Bishop—in this case the Most Reverend Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J.—calls each priestly candidate by name. The candidate responds, "Present," and steps forward.
Presentation and Inquiry
The bishop then asks for testimony that the candidates have received proper training and are worthy of ordination. The religious superior, or some other official, attests that the candidates are prepared and have been approved for ordination.
The bishop then says: "We rely on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, and we choose these men, our brothers, for priesthood in the presbyterial order." The people respond "Thanks be to God" and also give their approbation by a hearty round of applause.
Examination of the Candidate
Each candidate approaches the bishop who asks him if he is willing to serve Christ and his Church as a faithful priest.
Promise of Obedience
Hand in hand with the bishop, the ordinand then promises obedience to the authority of the Church and to his own religious superiors.
Prayer for the Candidates
The bishop kneels and invites all of those present to join in prayer for the candidates. This period of prayer includes the Litany of the Saints.
Chanting of the Litany
The singing of the Litany of the Saints is an especially moving and memorable moment in the ordination ritual. The candidates prostrate themselves before the altar as the prayers of the Litany invoke God's saving mercy and the intercession of all the saints to send down the Holy Spirit upon these men, soon to be priests.
Laying on of Hands
This is the most solemn moment of the ordination and the essential act in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
The bishop ordains each man by laying his hands on the candidate's head and praying silently as he invokes the Holy Spirit upon the new priest.
The One Priesthood of Christ
All the other priests who are present also join in the ordination ceremony. Each one in turn lays his hands upon the head of the newly ordained priests.
This signifies that they all belong to, and participate in, the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. It is also a sign welcoming the newly ordained into their common brotherhood as priests.
Vesting the New Priest
Each newly ordained now removes his deacon's stole and is presented with the symbols of his new office in the Church: a priestly stole and chasuble.
Usually a priest who is a personal friend of the ordinand is invited to assist with the vesting of the stole and chasuble.
Anointing of the Hands
The bishop anoints the palms of the new priest with the oil of chrism. "The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God."
After the anointing with the oil, the priest's hands are wrapped with a linen cloth.
Presentation of the Gifts
After the gifts of bread and wine are brought to the altar, the bishop gives the paten and the chalice to each new priest. These are the vessels used at each Mass to hold the sacred Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
As the priest receives the chalice and paten, the bishop says: "Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to Him. Know whay you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord's cross."
Liturgy of the Eucharist
After the ordination ritual itself has finished, the Mass—concelebrated by the bishop, the newly ordained priests, and all priests present—continues as usual.
The new priests assist with the distribution of communion.
First Priestly Blessings
Before the Mass concludes, it is traditional that the ordaining bishop receive the first blessing of the new priest.
Then the new priests give their blessing to all of their relatives and friends who have joined them in this celebration.
After the Mass of Ordination, the celebration continues at a reception with family, friends, food, and drink.
This is truly a time to celebrate since ordination to the priesthood was the focal point for many years of studies and preparation and is the beginning of a new phase of the person's ministry.
First Mass of Thanksgiving
The first Mass celebrated personally by the newly ordained priest is usually a special one of thanksgiving to God for the gift of priesthood.
Family and friends, who have supported the seminarian along the journey of his vocation, experience many graces and find great consolation in their new priest.