Not long ago, I celebrated my tenth anniversary as a Roman Catholic priest. There are many memories of that blessed day. It has been nice to review the pictures of the ceremonies and to recall the moment of ordination when I was made a priest of God. It was at that time I was given the power to offer Holy Mass, to bless, and to forgive sins. I remember with special joy my first blessing given as a priest. It was bestowed on my parents.
In order to enkindle some of the spark I received on that day, I took some time in the stillness of my parish church to review the ordination ceremonies. The wording of that holy rite is truly inspiring. In a sermon for my anniversary Mass I reviewed with my parishioners the meaning of those words. I also reviewed with them the mutilated form of the ordination rite in the novus ordo church. The differences are not just striking in what the words do or do not say, they are shocking and even worrisome.
Changes Here Too
Why did the Innovators find it necessary to change everything sacred in the Church? Tampering with the Mass was not their only nefarious deed. They left us an empty shell of worship of God by taking away the Sacrifice of the Mass and replacing it with the Abomination of Desolation. Their efforts produced a liturgy with severely doubtful validity all the while destroying the sacred tradition of Latin as the official language of the Church. They didn't stop here. A major butcher-job was done on the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood. Since most people rarely see an ordination, the seriousness of this has perhaps gone largely undetected. We cannot be silent about it any longer.
By 1967 the novus ordo was introduced and the Tridentine Latin Mass was abolished. Major announcements were made and most of us sat by as we watched our Mass being destroyed. Do you know the date of the change in the sacramental rites? Perhaps not. There were no announcements made, no write-ups in parish bulletins or diocesan papers. The new Roman Pontifical was made official in 1978. It was prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the same group responsible for the changes in the Mass. In Chapter Eleven we find the new rite of Ordination Of A Priest. In twelve pages of wide-spaced type, one can read how a man is made a priest in the new rite. The modern ordination is simplified to the extreme. If it is stretched out with singing and a sermon it could probably take about an hour. My ordination took nearly three.
Besides reducing the wording of ceremonies, they have also taken some of the preparatory orders away. As of 1978, Tonsure was eliminated and the only Minor Orders are Lector and Acolyte. From here the candidate for the modern priesthood jumps to the Diaconate and then to the Priesthood. Abolished also is the Order of Subdiaconate. Tonsure, Porter, Exorcist and Subdiaconate were not superfluous steps to the priesthood. Each communicated a future responsibility that the candidate would face as a priest. Why was it necessary for them to be eliminated? Hasn't the new rite cheapened the respect the new candidate should have for the priesthood?
Essence of Ordination Meaning Missing
Why is a man made a priest in the Catholic Church? The chief reason is to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The traditional rite explains this clearly. In the words of the bishop to the ordinand, the office of the priesthood is explained according to the traditional understanding of what we know a priest should be:
"Dearly beloved son, as you are now about to be consecrated to the office of the Priesthood, endeavor to receive it worthily, and when you have received it, to fulfill its duties blamelessly. The Priest is ordained to offer Sacrifice, to bless, to guide, to preach and to baptize. With great awe should one advance to so high a state...."
Here is how the office of the Priesthood is explained by the bishop according to the 1978 rite:
"My son, you are now to advance to the order of the prebyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher. Share with mankind the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach. . . . In the memorial of the Lord's death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ."
There is no subtle difference here. The Catholic priesthood is to be distinguished from any other ministry because it is a sacrificing priesthood. The Catholic priest offers up the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary. He offers God back to God for the good of mankind. Holy Mass is not merely a memorial of the Lord's death, nor does the Mass have anything to do with Christ's Resurrection. The essence of the priesthood -- that it was established to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, the unbloody renewal of Calvary -- is missing from the new rite. This is important as we consider a point later in the ceremonies.
The Form of the Rite
From the catechism we know that all Sacraments must have proper matter, form and intention. If any of these is defective, there is no Sacrament. For example, to attempt to baptize with motor oil would be invalid because oil is improper matter for baptism. Even if the proper words are used and the minister has the proper intention, there would be no Sacrament of Baptism because there was improper matter (one of the three essential elements) used. It was oil and not water.
By the intention necessary for each Sacrament is usually meant what is expressed or implied by the minister of the Sacrament. In the new ordination rite, the intention of the bishop has already been seen in his address to the candidate. Another important consideration is the intention of the recipient. For all Sacraments except the Holy Eucharist, the intention of the recipient can also block the validity of that Sacrament. In the 1978 rite, the intention of the candidate is publicly proclaimed in a question and answer form from bishop to candidate. See if you can read where the candidate declares that he is receiving the sacrificing priesthood:
Bishop: "My son, before you proceed to the order of presbyterate, declare before the people your intention to undertake this priestly office. Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of the priesthood in the presbyteral order as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishops in caring for the Lord's flock?"
Candidate: "I am."
Bishop: "Are you resolved to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and religiously as the Church has handed them down to us for the glory of God and the sanctification of Christ's people?"
Candidate: "I am."
Bishop: Are you resolved to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and explaining the catholic faith?
Candidate: "I am."
Bishop: "Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of his people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a perfect sacrifice?
Candidate: "I am."
The Form is Also Changed
To this point we have reviewed the expressed intention for which a man is ordained. The matter of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is the imposition of hands by the bishop on the ordinand. This is done in silence and is one of the most inspiring parts of the ceremony. The traditional rite and that of 1978 are the same one at this point. But the form of the Sacrament is different.
In 1948, Pope Pius XII defined once and for all which words of the traditional ceremony are to be considered the essential form. Changing these in any way would invalidate the Sacrament. It is important to note that the pope never changed the word s. He defined the words that were already in the ceremonial for many centuries. The form of the Sacrament in the traditional ceremony is:
"Grant, we implore Thee, almighty Father, to this Thy servant the dignity of the Priesthood, renew within him the spirit of holiness, that he may keep the rank in Thy service which he has received from Thee, and by his conduct afford a pattern of holy living."
The form in the 1978 rite is:
"Hear us, Lord our God, and pour out upon this servant of yours the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the grace of the power of the priesthood. In your sight we offer this man for ordination: support him with your unfailing love. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen."
The nature of the priesthood is that which is explained in the publicly expressed intention of the bishop. To which form of the priesthood is the candidate ordained in either ceremony?
Further Missing Elements
After the candidate is made a priest, he receives the uniform of his office. The 1978 form calls for the bishop to arrange the stole of the newly ordained and place the chasuble on him without any prayers. The traditional rite uses these prayers:
For the Stole: "Receive the yoke of the Lord, for His yoke is sweet, and His burden light."
For the Chasuble: "Receive the priestly vestment whereby charity is signified; for God is well able to give thee an increase of charity and its perfect works."
Next the hands of the newly ordained are anointed with oil. The traditional rite has the bishop say:
"Be pleased, O Lord, to consecrate and hallow these hands by this anointing and our blessing That whatsoever they bless may be blessed, and whatsoever they consecrate may be consecrated and hallowed, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ."
The 1978 rite:
"The Father annointed 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."
Next the traditional rite has the bishop present a chalice containing wine and water to the newly ordained upon which is placed a paten with an unconsecrated host. As the ordinandi touch these, these words are said by the bishop:
"Receive the power to offer Sacrifice to God, and to celebrate Mass, both for the living and the dead, in the name of the Lord."
The 1978 rite has none of these prayers.
Lastly, toward the end of the Ordination Mass in the traditional ceremony, the bishop lays his hands upon the ordinandi saying:
"Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins thou shalt forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins thou shalt retain, they are retained."
Following this the bishop unfolds the chasuble saying:
"The Lord clothe thee with the robe of innocence."
The 1978 rite has neither of these prayers.
The 1978 rite is conspicuous for what is missing, especially in some of the essential wording of the ceremony. The priesthood in the modern church is proceeding along a decidedly different path than that which the Church has taken for centuries.
Just where will that path lead us all?