"The priest continues the work of redemption on earth...If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love...The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus."(St. John Vianney)
Ordination to priesthood is a gift of the Holy Spirit which permits the exercise of a sacred power which comes from Jesus Christ himself through his Church. The hands of an ordained priest have a sacred power to offer the sacrifice of Christ and forgive sins in the sacraments. A priest, by virtue of his reception of the sacrament of Holy Orders and thus the sacred power entrusted to him, acts in persona Christi capitis, in the very person of Christ the head. The priest functions and exists in the person of Christ the head. It is really Jesus who baptizes, it is Jesus who offers himself in the Mass, it is Jesus who forgives sins in confession, it is Jesus who anoints and heals the sick - but it is his priest who is saying the words, acting in the very person of Christ.
Every day, Jesus does powerful miracles through his priests, even if a few happen to be not very holy men. Whether a particular priest is a great saint or a terrible sinner, the sacrament he validly celebrates still takes effect. This is known as ex opere operato, meaning sacraments confer the grace they signify regardless of the virtue of the priest or recipient of the sacrament. The priesthood is about serving others and getting them to heaven. Jesus imparts this sacred power to a priest for the sake of others.
There are three degrees of the sacrament of Holy Orders: bishop, priest and deacon. The bishop is the fullness of the priesthood. A priest shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ only through his bishop. Both the bishop and the priest are ordained to the presbyterate, to offer sacrifice on behalf of the People of God, to make present the love of God in the midst of the gathered assembly. Deacons are ordained to Christ the servant. They are configured to Christ to be sacrament in the world, to take the love of God out from the altar and distribute it among the poor and needy.
Am I called to the sacrament of Holy Orders?
If you are an unmarried Catholic male: All Catholic males should at least consider and pray about a possible calling to ordained service as they try and figure out who they will be and what they will do for their life. If you feel God is calling you to the Altar as a priest of Jesus Christ, you are invited to visit with a priest of St. Patrick's or contact the Diocese of Grand Island's Vocation's Office via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org