Session 10 Matrimony and Holy Orders

Sacrament of Matrimony

 Rings for the Sacrament of Matrimony
Rings for the Sacrament of Matrimony


  • This is a Covenant between a man and a woman which reflects that of God and his Chosen People.
  • Two ends of marriage: 

Unitive         - for the expression of love between a man and a woman.

“It is not good that man should be alone.”   (Gen. 2:18)

Procreative   - for the couple to cooperate with God in bringing children into the world.

                        “ Be fruitful and multiply.”   ( Gen.1:28) (Marriage important for upbringing of children)

Both are achieved by grace from God.

  • God himself is love and God created man and woman out of love.  The couple should love God and each other as this love reflects the love God has for human beings. They should be faithful to one another and not have any other sexual partners.

            “A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.”   (Gen.2:24)

  • Marriage Feast of Cana   Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast.  By his very presence, this marriage is blest.  (John 2:1-10)
  • St. Paul

“Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her ……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 Church.”  (Eph.5:25-26)  Marriage mirrors the union that Christ had with his Church, the Bride of Christ.

  • The Ceremony

Either as part of the celebration of the Eucharist, so binding this Sacrament with that of the Sacrifice Christ made for us, or as a separate liturgy with special hymns, readings and prayers.

  • The Minister of the Sacrament

In the Latin (western) Church, the couple confer the Sacrament on each other.  (In the eastern Church, the priest)  The priest witnesses the marriage as the Church’s representative.

  • The Outward sign of the Sacrament  (all Sacraments have an outward sign)

This is the Matrimonial Consent of the two people.  This must be given freely for it to be a valid marriage.  The marriage is completed by both of the following:

a) the vows:    “I take you to be my husband/wife….” Before priest and 2 witnesses

b) consummation of the marriage. 

  • Preparation for Marriage.  Thought essential.  6 months notice must be given in some dioceses
  • Mixed Marriage and Disparity of Cult.

1)      To marry a Christian of another denomination, express permission must be given by the Bishop through the Parish Priest.

2)      To marry someone who is not a Christian (not baptised) express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage.

It is hoped that by prayer and example, the spouse may be brought to faith one day:

“For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife and the unbelieving wife is    

  consecrated through her husband.”  (1 Cor. 7:14)

  • Early Church Teaching 
  • “How can I ever express the happiness of 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 of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh.  Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.”  Tertullian   A.D. 160 -225
  • Indissoluble

            The Church teaches that a valid marriage cannot be dissolved.  Marriage is for life and only ends when    

            one of the spouses dies. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.  Mt. 19:6 

There are certain circumstances when an ecclesiastical tribunal can declare a marriage invalid i.e. that there was no marriage there in the first place:

e.g.  Non-consummation of the marriage.

If free consent was not given.

If a marriage cannot be recognised by the civil law of the particular country.

Marriage of a minor whose parents are unaware of the marriage or are reasonably opposed to it.

If one of the parties was not baptised and this impediment was not removed before marriage.

If one of the parties is in holy orders or bound by a perpetual act of chastity in a religious institution.


Sacrament of Holy Orders

 A Priest being Ordained
A Priest being Ordained

  • Priesthood in the Old Testament

The tribe of Levi (one of the twelve) was chosen by God for liturgical service.  Priests were appointed to act on behalf of man in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

Melchizadek – a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ as he offered bread and wine.

(Gen.14:18; Ps.110:4 referred to in Heb.6:20; 7:1ff

Sacrifices in the Old Testament involved slaughter of animals as a substitute for a human being, or a libation which was the pouring out of wine as an offering.  Sacrifices were offered in the Temple and nowhere else.  Since A.D. 70 when the Temple was destroyed, the Jews have not offered sacrifice.


  • Priesthood in the New Testament

Christ is the High Priest.  He chose his Apostles and entrusted them with the mission of

a)  preaching the Gospel   b)  presiding at the Breaking of the Bread.

The Apostles were the first Bishops who in turn ordained others to do the same.


  • Ordination  is the rite by which a man, after suitable training, (e.g. at Wonersh Seminary, in Surrey) is incorporated in the order of the priesthood which has three degrees

a) The Episcopate .  This is the Order conferred onto a priest which makes him a Bishop and is the fullness of Holy Orders. 

b) The  Presbyterate.  This is the Order conferred on a man to make him a priest or presbyter.  He is a co-worker of his local Bishop and works in union with him.  The Priest is in charge of a parish.                            

c) The Diaconate.  This Order makes a man a deacon.  He serves the priest in many ways.


Men are consecrated (set apart for God).  The laying of hands by the Bishop with the consecratory    

             prayer constitutes the visible sign of ordination. 

“The Sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a ‘sacred power’ which is none other than that of   

             Christ.”   C.C.C.  1551. 

            The priest should see Christ as his model.  As Christ came to serve, so should the priest.


  • The Common Priesthood/Ministerial Priesthood

Through our baptism, we share in the kingly, priestly and prophetic ministries of Christ but this common priesthood must not be confused with the ministerial priesthood of a priest.


The Priest has the responsibility of

a)      Preaching the word of God to the people.

b)      Celebrating the Eucharist for the people when he acts in the person of Christ.  Through his actions, Christ becomes present on the altar by the power of the Holy Spirit.

c)      Administering the other Sacraments to the people.

d)      Providing pastoral care for the people.

e)      Being responsible for the running of the parish, possibly with the help of the laity.

f)       He is a co-worker with his local Bishop and is responsible to him.

g)      He works with his fellow priests in the deanery and beyond.

h)      He is in communion with his Bishop who in turn is in communion with Rome.


The Bishop

       a)  ‘Bishop’ means ‘overseer’.  He is in charge of a diocese/see/local church but is in communion with

              the Bishop of Rome, the Pope who is the successor of St. Peter.

b)      He can only be episcopally ordained with the permission of the Pope and only a Bishop can confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

c)      Is the usual minister of Confirmation except when adults are received into the Church in which case the priest is given the authority to confirm.

d)      The Bishop acts as a shepherd to his flock in his diocese/local church. (His crosier resembles a shepherd’s crook)

e)      He may be involved in the ordination of a Bishops as several Bishops perform the laying on of hands at the ceremony. 

f)       Goes to Rome periodically to give an account of activity in his diocese.  (Ad Limina visits)


The Deacon

a)       Ordained by Bishop to serve the Bishop and priests in celebration of the Divine Mysteries.

b)       May distribute Holy Communion.

c)       May assist at marriage ceremonies.

d)       Proclaims the Gospel and preaches.

e)       Presides over funerals.

f)        May dedicate himself to various ministries of charity.

A married man may be ordained as a Permanent Deacon.  A single man intending to be ordained a priest will be ordained Deacon first and then Priest soon after.


  • Celibacy

Priests normally live a celibate life in the Latin Church.  In modern times, some Anglican priest who have been ordained in their own church and are married, have been accepted for the priesthood in the Catholic Church and continue to lead a married life.


In the Eastern Church, a candidate for the priesthood may marry before he is ordained.  He may choose to remain celibate and it is from the celibate clergy that Bishops are chosen.


  • Monks/Friars

Monks e.g. Benedictines, Cistercians, are men who belong to a religious order and live in a monastery.  Some are ordained priests while others may remain as bothers.  A monk may be appointed Bishop e.g. Cardinal Basil Hume who was Archbishop of Westminster and also became a Cardinal was a Benedictine monk.

Friars  e.g.  Franciscans, Dominicans, are men who travel around preaching although they are usually based at a particular friary/priory.

Vows  Monks and Friars take three vows:  poverty, chastity and obedience,


Secular/diocesan priests do not belong to a religious order and are ordained to work in a particular diocese.


(Although nuns belong to various religious orders, they are not said to be in holy orders! Sometimes the media get this wrong.)


  • Indelible spiritual character

This is conferred on the soul of the person ordained and remains forever, even if he ceases to practise his priestly duties or if he is forbidden to do so.  (In an emergency, he could anoint a dying person)


  • Vocation

This word means ‘calling’.  God calls a man to the priesthood but it can be used in connection with other callings e.g. to the married life, to the single life, to the religious life (nuns, brothers) perhaps to a career in medicine, teaching etc. 


We should all try to discern what it is that God wants us to do with our life.  Which way can we best serve Christ and his church?  How best can we become closer to God? How best can we serve our fellow human beings?