Sancta Missa - Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual) - Rite for ordination of priests


{The rite of ordination of a priest is taken from the latest edition of the Roman Pontifical, Part I, issued on February 28, 1962. It has been requested that it be included here as a convenience, because of its special importance in the Church's liturgy and because it may be a long time before the Roman Pontifical is translated into English.}

The ordination of a priest must normally take place within the Mass, after the tract has been sung or recited up to the last verse exclusive; or on certain days before the alleluia verse.

The bishop is seated on the faldstool, which has been placed for him at the middle of the altar. He is wearing the mitre.

The candidates are vested in amice, alb, maniple, and stole worn in the manner of a deacon. Over the left arm they carry a folded chasuble, the vestment of priesthood; and in the right hand a lighted candle and the white linen hand, used later to bind their hands (in some places the band is attached to the cincture).

The Preparatory Ceremony

{The first part of the rite consists of the calling of the ordinands and the formal presentation of them to the bishop; the reading of the interdict; the archdeacon's petition and testimony; and the bishop's address to the ordinands.}

The archdeacon summons the ordinands with the formula: Let those who are to be ordained to the order of priesthood come forward.

As their names are read out one by one by the notary, each one replies: "Present" and steps forward; they arrange themselves in a semicircle before the bishop and kneel.

Then one of the assistants reads the interdict, a last warning that if anyone receives the sacrament under false pretences, he will incur the penalty of excommunication.

The most reverend father and ruler in Christ, His Excellency, N.N., by the grace of God and of the Apostolic See Bishop of N., commands and charges, under pain of excommunication, that no one here present for the purpose of taking orders shall come forward to be ordained under any pretext, if he be irregular, excommunicated by law or by judicial sentence, under interdict or suspension, illegitimate, infamous, or in any other way disqualified, or of another diocese, unless he has the permission of his bishop. He enjoins, moreover, that none of the ordained shall depart until the Mass is over and the bishop's blessing has been received.

Now the archdeacon presents the candidates to the bishop, saying:

Most Reverend Father, our holy Mother the Catholic Church asks you to ordain these deacons here present to the burden of the priesthood.

The bishop inquires:

Do you know if they are worthy? The archdeacon replies:

As far as human frailty allows one to know, I am certain and I testify that they are worthy to undertake the burden of this office.

The bishop says:

Thanks be to God.

The Bishop's Address

{In the first place the bishop addresses himself to the clergy and the people, consulting with them about the fitness of the men who are being presented for ordination. This is reminiscent of olden times when the custom prevailed of having priests and other clergy chosen by the will of the people. It must be kept in mind, then, that in the present discipline of the Church the people can merely raise objections, but it is the bishop who makes the choice.}

The bishop addresses the clergy and the people as follows:

My dear brethren, since the captain of a ship and its passengers alike have reason to feel safe or else in danger on a voyage, they ought to be of one mind in their common interests. Not without reason, then, have the fathers decreed that the people too should be consulted in the choice of those who are to be raised to the ministry of the altar.

For sometimes it happens that one or another person has knowledge about the life and conduct of a candidate that is not generally known. And the people will necessarily be more inclined to be loyal to a priest if they have given consent to his ordination.

As far as I can judge, the conduct of these deacons, who with God's help are to be ordained to the priesthood, is commendable and is pleasing to God. In my opinion, then, they are deserving of being promoted to a higher honor in the Church. Yet it is well to consult the people as a whole, rather than to rely on one or a few, whose approval might be a consequence of partiality or of misjudgment.

Be perfectly free, then, to say what you know about the conduct and character of the candidates and what you think of their fitness. But let your approval of their elevation to the priesthood be based more on their merits than on your own affection for them. Consequently, if anyone has anything against them, let him for God's honor and in God's name come forward and sincerely speak his mind. Only let him remember his own state.

After a brief pause the bishop continues, addressing himself now in exhortation to the candidates:

My dear sons, who are about to be consecrated to the office of the priesthood, endeavor to receive that office worthily, and once ordained, strive to discharge it in a praiseworthy manner. A priest's duties are to offer sacrifice, to bless, to govern, to preach, and to baptize. So high a dignity should be approached with great awe, and care must be taken that those chosen for it are recommended by eminent wisdom, upright character, and a long-standing virtuous life.

Thus it was that when the Lord commanded Moses to choose as his helpers seventy men from the whole tribe of Israel, to whom He would impart the gifts of the Holy Spirit, He said to him: "Choose the ones whom you know to be elders of the people" (Num 11.16). It is you yourselves who are prefigured in these seventy elders, if now, by the help of the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, you are faithful to the Ten Commandments, and display soundness and maturity in knowledge and in action.

Under the same kind of sign and figure, our Lord, in the New Law, chose the seventy-two disciples, and sent them before Him two by two to preach. Thus He taught us both by word and by deed that the ministers of His Church should be perfect both in faith and in works; in other words, that their lives should be founded on the twofold love of God and of neighbor. Strive, then, to be such, that by God's grace you may be worthy of being chosen to assist Moses and the twelve apostles, that is, the Catholic bishops who are prefigured by Moses and the apostles. Then indeed is Holy Church surrounded, adorned, and ruled by a wonderful variety of ministers, when from her ranks are consecrated bishops, and others of lesser orders, priests, deacons, and subdeacons, each of a different dignity, yet comprising the many members of the one body of Christ.

Therefore, my dear sons, chosen as you are by the judgment of our brethren to be consecrated as our helpers, keep yourselves blameless in a life of chastity and sanctity. Be well aware of the sacredness of your duties. Be holy as you deal with holy things. When you celebrate the mystery of the Lord's death, see to it that by mortifying your bodies you rid yourselves of all vice and concupiscence. Let the doctrine you expound be spiritual medicine for the people of God. Let the fragrance of your lives be the delight of Christ's Church, that by your preaching and example you help to build up the edifice which is the family of God. May it never come about that we, for promoting you to so great an office, or you, for taking it on yourselves, should deserve the Lord's condemnation; but rather may we merit a reward from Him. So let it be by His grace.

All: Amen.

Litany of the Saints

If ordination to the priesthood was not preceded earlier by ordination to the subdiaconate or the diaconate, then the Litany of the Saints is chanted at this time. During the litany the candidates humbly lie prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary. The bishop kneels on the altar predella. For the litany see Litany of the Saints (and for the music see the music supplement).

After the invocation "That you grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed" the bishop stands and turns to the ordinands (who remain prostrate on the floor). Holding the crozier in his left hand and still wearing the mitre, the bishop chants or recites the following:

That you bless + these elect. R. We beg you to hear us.

That you bless + and sanctify + these elect. R. We beg you to hear us.

That you bless + and sanctify + and consecrate these elect. R. We beg you to hear us.

Then the bishop kneels again at the faldstool, and the chanters finish the litany up to "Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord have mercy," inclusive.

The Laying-on of Hands

{When the litany is ended the candidates rise and go in pairs to kneel before the bishop. The bishop places both his hands on the head of each candidate in turn, without saying anything. This very simple though impressive action, unaccompanied by prayer or chant, is called the essential matter of the sacrament. It signifies that the power of priesthood is conferred by the bishop imposing hands on the candidate, transmitting to the latter the power which the bishop himself has received from Christ through the apostles and their successors.}

After the bishop has imposed hands on them, they return to their former place and kneel. When all are in place the bishop holds his right hand outstretched over them. Next the priests who are present come forward and lay both their hands on the head of each candidate Then, forming a semicircle beginning at the gospel side, they stand behind the candidates and hold their right hand outstretched over them just as the bishop is doing.

The act of the priests taking part in the ceremony of laying-on of hands is perhaps a relic of the time when more than one bishop took part in the ordination of priests, and each bishop present imposed hands on the ordinands. The present ceremony of the priests, imposing hands has no other purpose than to make more forceful the outward sign of power being conferred through this kind of action.

The bishop (wearing the mitre) now says the following prayer:

My brethren, let us implore God the Father almighty to multiply His heavenly gifts in these servants of His whom He has chosen for the office of the priesthood. May they fulfill by His grace the office they receive by His goodness; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Then the bishop removes the mitre, turns to the altar, and says:

Let us pray.

The ministers: Let us kneel down. R. Arise.

Then the bishop turns around to the ordinands and says:

Hear us, we pray, O Lord God, and pour out on these servants of yours the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the power of priestly grace. And now as we present them for consecration in your benign presence, may you sustain them forever by the bounty of your gifts. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God,

Here the bishop extends his hands and chants or recites the conclusion to the preceding prayer and the following versicles:

B: Forever and ever.

All: Amen.

B: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

B: Lift up your hearts.

All: We have lifted them up to the Lord.

B: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

All: It is fitting and right to do so.

The Solemn Prayer and Form of the Sacrament

{This very beautiful prayer, also called the consecratory preface, is the actual form of the sacrament, and in early times the Roman rite for ordination had nothing more than a prayer or prayers of this kind, along with the imposition of hands. A theology of the sacrament could quite easily be constructed on this prayer. In brief, it asks for God's grace, for He is the source of all honors and dignities, as also of all growth and order. It states the principle that God's loving providence guides His rational creatures through stages of gradual progress and perfection. It points out how this principle operated in the Old Testament, in God's choosing Moses and the seventy elders to assist Him; and in the New, in Christ's choosing the apostles and their successors to carry out the ministry of His Church. Then follows a petition that the bishop may have helpers in the men being ordained, who will prove themselves to be elders in the best sense of the term. Lastly the Holy Spirit and His gifts are invoked on the candidates, that they be raised to the priesthood and be filled with the holiness which should characterize this office.}

The bishop continues with the consecratory preface:

It is indeed fitting and right, praiseworthy and salutary that we should always and everywhere give thanks to you, O holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, the source of all honors and the dispenser of all dignities. Through you all things make progress and receive their permanence. In accord with your wise designs all rational creatures advance to a higher excellence. And in accord with this same principle the various grades of priests and the offices of levites, instituted for sacred functions, grew and developed. For after appointing chief priests to rule the people, you selected men of lesser degree and second rank to be their associates and their helpers. Thus in the desert you propagated Moses' spirit in the hearts of seventy judicious men, with whose help he was enabled to govern easily the countless multitude. Thus too you imbued Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, with the abundant graces of their father, in order to assure a sufficient number of priests for the offering of saving sacrifices and the performance of the more common sacred rites. By the same providence, O Lord, you gave the apostles of your Son associate teachers of the faith, and by their help as preachers of a second rank the apostles made their voice heard to the ends of the earth. Therefore, we beg you, Lord, to support us in our weakness with similar helpers, for inasmuch as we are weaker, so much the more we stand in need of them.

The Essential Form

At this point the bishop interrupts the chant and recites the following words, which constitute the essential form of the sacrament:

Almighty Father, we pray that you bestow on these servants of yours the dignity of the priesthood. Renew in their hearts the spirit of holiness, so that they may be steadfast in this second degree of the priestly office received from you, O God, and by their own lives suggest a rule of life to others.

Here the bishop resumes the chant of the rest of the preface:

May they be prudent fellow-workers in our ministry. May they shine in all the virtues, so that they will be able to give a good account of the stewardship entrusted to them. and finally attain the reward of everlasting blessedness.

The bishop recites the conclusion in a low voice, but loud enough to be heard by those near him:

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

All: Amen.

Investiture of the New Priests

Now the newly ordained priests go and kneel before the bishop one by one. The bishop is seated on the faldstool and is wearing the mitre. He takes the stole, until now worn by the newly ordained on the left shoulder, draws it over the right shoulder, and arranges it in the form of a cross over the chest (in the manner worn by a priest). As he does so he says to each one:

Take the yoke of the Lord, for His yoke is sweet and His burden light.

Next he invests each one with the chasuble, leaving it folded and pinned at the back but hanging down in front. As he does so he says:

Take the vestment of priesthood which signifies charity; for God is able to advance you in charity and in perfection.

To this the ordained adds: Thanks be to God.

The bishop rises, removes the mitre, and says the following prayer, during which all the others kneel:

O God, the source of all holiness, whose consecration is ever effective, whose blessing is ever fulfilled, pour out on these servants of yours, whom we now raise to the dignity of the priesthood, the gift of your blessing. By their noble and exemplary lives let them prove that they are really elders of the people, and true to the norms laid down by Paul to Timothy and Titus. Let them meditate on your law day and night, so that they may believe what they have read, and teach what they have believed, and practice what they have taught. May justice, constancy, mercy, courage, and all the other virtues be reflected in their every way of acting. May they inspire others by their example, and hearten them by their admonitions. May they keep pure and spotless the gift of their high calling. For the worship of your people may they change bread and wine into the body and blood of your Son by a holy consecration. May they through persevering charity mature "unto the perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ," and rise on the day of the just and eternal judgment of God with a good conscience, true faith, and the full gifts of the Holy Spirit. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with

you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

All: Amen.

The bishop kneels, facing the altar, and intones the hymn, "Veni Creator" which is then continued by the choir (for the music see the music supplement):

Veni Creator

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,

And in our souls take up your rest;

Come with your grace and heavenly aid

To fill the hearts which you have made.

O Comforter, to you we cry,

You heavenly gift of God Most High,

You, fount of life and fire of love,

And sweet anointing from above.

You in your sevenfold gifts are known;

You, finger of God's hand we own;

You, promise of the Father, you

Who do the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our senses from above,

And make our hearts o'erflow with love;

With patience firm and virtue high

The weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,

And grant us your peace instead;

So shall we not, with you for guide,

Turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may your grace on us bestow

The Father and the Son to know;

And you, through endless times confessed,

Of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,

Who rose from death, be glory given,

With you, O holy Comforter,

Henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

The Anointing of Hands

After the first verse of the hymn the bishop rises and sits on the faldstool (wearing the mitre). He removes his gloves but puts the episcopal ring back on his finger. The gremiale is placed over his knees. The ordained come forward and one by one kneel before the bishop. He then takes the oil of catechumens and anoints both of their hands which they hold together palms upward. First he anoints the inside of the hands, tracing a cross from the thumb of the right hand to the index finger of the left, and from the thumb of the left hand to the index finger of the right. Next he anoints the entire palms. He says as he performs the anointings:

May it please you, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these hands by this anointing and our + blessing.

All: Amen.

And having made the sign of the cross over the hands of the ordained he continues:

That whatever they bless may be blessed, and whatever they consecrate may be consecrated in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To the above form each of the ordained adds:


Then the bishop closes or joins together the hands of the ordained. The latter, keeping his hands joined, goes to the side of the altar where one of the assistants of the bishop binds the consecrated hands together with a white cloth, leaving the fingers free. Each of the ordained goes back to his place. The bishop cleanses his fingers with a piece of bread.

Presentation of the Host and Chalice

The bishop now presents each of the ordained with a chalice containing wine and water and a paten upon it with a host. The ordained touches with the fore and middle fingers both the paten and the cur of the chalice. During this ceremony the bishop says:

Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God, and to celebrate Masses for the living and the dead, in the name of the Lord.

All: Amen.

Having cleansed his hands the bishop goes to the throne or to the faldstool at the epistle side. Mass is resumed with the singing of the last verse of the tract or sequence or alleluia verse.

Concelebration of the Mass

After the offertory antiphon the bishop puts on the mitre and is seated before the middle of the altar. The ordained come to the altar, and two by two kneel before the bishop and present him with a lighted candle, kissing his hand as they do so. After this they return to their places.

From now on all the newly ordained priests pray the Mass along with the bishop, saying all prayers aloud, even those usually said in a low voice. They receive the kiss of peace from the bishop at the usual time. At holy communion the ordained, before receiving the sacred host, say "Amen" to the formula and then kiss the bishop's ring.

After receiving communion they go to the epistle side of the altar to partake of some wine, not from the chalice which the bishop has consecrated, but from another containing ordinary wine. One of the assisting priests holds a chalice and a purificator in readiness for this purpose.

After taking the ablution and washing his hands, the bishop removes the mitre, stands at the epistle side, and intones the following responsories, which are continued by the choir (for the music see the music supplement):


No longer do I call you servants * but my friends, for you have known all things I have wrought in your midst, (alleluia).*

Receive the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, within you. * It is He whom the Father will send to you, (alleluia).

V. You are my friends if you do the things that I command you. * Receive the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, within you.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. * It is He whom the Father will send to you, (alleluia).

The alleluia is omitted from Septuagesima to Easter.

Having said the responsory the bishop puts on the mitre, goes to the middle of the altar, and turns to the ordained. The latter now recite the Creed which is a summary of the faith they will henceforth preach:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell, the third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

The Commission to Absolve

When the Creed is finished the bishop sits on the faldstool at the middle of the altar (he is wearing the mitre). As the ordained kneel before him one by one, he places both his hands on the head of the ordained and says to each one:

Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Then the bishop unfolds the chasuble, which the ordained has worn folded on his shoulders until now; and as he lets the chasuble drop at the back he says to each one:

The Lord clothe you with the robe of innocence.

The Promise of Obedience

Then each of the ordained comes again before the bishop, kneels and places his folded hands between the hands of the bishop. If the bishop is the Ordinary of the ordained he says to him:

Do you promise me and my successors reverence and obedience?

The priest replies: I promise.

But if the bishop is not the Ordinary of the newly ordained he says to him as he holds his hands (if he is a secular priest):

Do you promise reverence and obedience to the bishop who is your Ordinary for the time being? R: I promise.

Or he says to a priest of a religious order:

Do you promise reverence and obedience to the prelate who is your Ordinary for the time being? R: I promise.

Then the bishop, still holding the newly ordained's hands within his own, kisses him on the right cheek, saying:

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

The ordained responds: Amen.

Admonition and Blessing

Afterward when the ordained have returned to their place, the bishop sits down, puts on the mitre, takes the crozier, and addresses the ordained as follows:

My dear sons, as the office you are undertaking is hazardous enough, I admonish you, before you begin to celebrate Mass, to learn carefully from other experienced priests the ritual of the whole Mass--the consecration, the breaking of the host, and the communion.

The bishop rises, and retaining the mitre and crozier, blesses the priests who kneel before him, saying in a loud voice:

May the blessing of almighty God, Father, + Son, + and Holy + Spirit + come upon you, that you may be blessed in the priestly order, and may offer for the sins and transgressions of the people appeasing sacrifices to almighty God, to whom be honor and glory forever and ever.

All: Amen.

At the end of Mass the bishop gives the pontifical blessing in the usual way:

B: Blessed be the name of the Lord.

All: Now and forevermore.

B: Our help is in the name of the Lord. All: Who made heaven and earth.

B: May almighty God bless you, the Father, + Son, + and Holy + Spirit.

All: Amen.

Final Exhortation

The bishop sits down and speaks a final word to the ordained, saying:

My dear sons, ponder well the order you have taken and the burden laid on your shoulders. Strive to lead a holy and devout life, and to please almighty God, that you may obtain His grace. May He in His kindness deign to bestow it on you.

Now that you have been ordained to the priesthood, may I ask you, after you have offered your first Mass, to celebrate three other Masses, namely, one in honor of the Holy Spirit, a second in honor of blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, and a third for the faithful departed. I ask you also to pray to almighty God for me.

Mass is concluded as usual.

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