As stated in the
Baltimore Catechism... (emphasis added)
Q. Why is this
Sacrament called Holy Orders?
A. This sacrament
is called Holy Orders because it is [traditionally] conferred by seven different
grades or steps following one another in fixed order by which the sacred powers
of the priesthood are gradually given to the one admitted to that holy state.
Q. What are
the grades by which one ascends to the priesthood?
[traditional] grades by which one ascends to the priesthood are (1) Tonsure, or
the clipping of the hair by the bishop, by which the candidate for priesthood
dedicates himself to the service of the altar; (2) The four minor orders,
Porter, Reader, Exorcist, and Acolyte, by which he is permitted to perform
certain duties that lay men should not perform; (3) Sub-deaconship, by which he
takes upon himself the obligation of leading a life of perpetual chastity and of
saying daily the divine office; (4) Deaconship, by which he receives the power
to preach, baptize, and give Holy Communion. The next step, priesthood, gives
him power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and forgive sins. These orders
are not all given at once, but at times fixed by the laws of the Church.
Q. Are not the
different orders separate Sacraments?
different orders are not separate Sacraments. Taken all together, some are a
preparation for the Sacrament and the rest are but the one Sacrament of Holy
Orders; as the roots, trunk and branches form but one tree.
Q. What name
is given to sub-deaconship, deaconship, and priesthood?
[Traditionally,] Sub-deaconship, deaconship and priesthood are called major or
greater orders, because those who receive them are bound for life to the service
of the altar and they cannot return to the service of the world to live as
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