Ordination to the Priesthood – The Church’s Physical Link to Christ and the Apostles is”Hands On”

We are entering the season for ordinations. And perhaps a worthy reflection is to recall that one of the great glories of the Catholic Church is her historical link to Christ and the Apostles.  The Catholic link to Christ himself and the apostles is not merely some moral unity, or a kind of invisible union, it is not merely a knowledge through books and historical data, precious those these things are.  No indeed, there is more at work here. There is also an actual physical union through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In this sacrament, there is a laying on of hands that stretches right back to the Apostles and Jesus.

Unique to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches – Only the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches can make the claim that they historically go back right to Christ and the Apostles. Every other Christian (Protestant) denomination lacks this antiquity. They were all founded less than 500 years ago, some even less than 100 years ago. Further, they literally severed the physical, hands on connection to Christ by casting aside the ministerial priesthood and hence the laying on of hands that signifies this sacrament.  They have ministers, but not priests. The Anglicans are an exception, in that they consider their ministers to be priests. Yet they are not considered by the Catholic Church to have valid orders since they went through a long period wherein they did explicitly abandon the intent to hand on the priesthood, hence the link was severed.   

Biblical and Patristic roots – It is clear in the Acts of the Apostles that when the apostles chose successors and co-workers to share in their apostolic ministry they “laid hands” on them. Paul and Barnabas had hands laid on them for their work as Apostles (Acts 13:3, 1 Tim 4:14 etc.). Paul later counsels Timothy to be careful on whom he “lays hands” when appointing bishops and deacons (1 Tim 5:22 etc). All the earliest documents of the Church such as the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch make it clear that this laying on of hands continued. This laying on of hands came to be known as “ordination.”

Every valid priest has “connections” – The Catholic Church through this laying on of hands actually preserves a physical link to Jesus himself and the Apostles he chose. History for us is a “hands-0n” kind of history, a “hands-on” link going back 2000 years. Every validly ordained Catholic bishop has this physical as well as spiritual link to the apostles. Every Bishop is a successor to the apostles. The priests share in this office and this link (though not in its fullness) for they too have hands laid on them by the bishop. I am often humbled to think of the “connections” I have with the early Church.

The Faith is literally handed on – So fellow Catholics, “stay connected” and rejoice in our “hands on” historical heritage. Now you know why it is said that the faith is “handed on.”

The following video shows highlights of the ordination of priests. In this case the ordination took place in Portland Oregon. I would like to show you highlights of our beautiful Washington ordinations but I am not aware of any film footage I can post. But this is a beautiful video.

Priesthood Ordination of Andrew Morkunas

AndrewMorkunasDeacon Andrew Morkunas is part of the priesthood class of 2009 for the Archdiocese of Washington, which had seven new priests ordained on June 20th of this year.  Andrew was skiing this past winter and had a pretty nasty fall.  A routine scan shockingly revealed a brain tumor which required surgery and Andrew was therefore unable to be part of the June ordination. Andrew had surgery before the scheduled ordination, and thanks be to God, and the many prayers offered for him, his recovery has gone very well.   Andrew is very ready and able to join the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Washington and will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Wuerl this Saturday Aug. 29 at 10 am in the crypt of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

If you have a moment please say a prayer for Deacon Andrew that the good work God has begun in him may be brought to completion.

If you are interested in learning more about Andrew and his experience of dealing with a brain tumor and preparing for ordination to the priesthood, here is an article on Andrew that was run in the Washington Post this past Saturday.


In Christ,

Msgr. Panke

Ordination Rite in the Movies

Some of you may remember the 1963 movie “The Cardinal” which was based on the Book of the Same name.  The movie was about the life of a Priest, Fr. Stephen Fermoyle and shows the human struggles of a man called to be a priest. It is a fine movie and rather respectful of the Church, though for its time it was rather “edgy” to show priests as human. It  is an historically significant film because of what was happening in the Roman Catholic Church at the time it premiered — the Second Vatican Council. Though the film is set in the first half of the 20th century it premiered just as the Vatican II was underway and many of the issues touched upon in the film — the liturgy, the role of lay persons and women in the Church, rights of the mother vs. the child, mixed marriage, ecumenism — were being hotly debated by the bishops in Rome. The film added to that debate among ordinary Catholics.

Some one recently posted a clip of the film covering the ordination of Fr. Fermoyle to the Priesthood. It is beautifully filmed. One quirky thing about it however, and the reason I post it here, is the Entrance Procession. I wrote of the entrance procession earlier (HERE) . What is interesting is how fast the procession is in this movie! It’s off to the races! I wonder if they were trying to save film or if processions in the “old days” really were conducted that fast. Any way I thought this clip might be a nice footnote to that article below. Enjoy this clip.