In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a baptized man is ordained into the priesthood of Christ. The sacrament has three forms: diaconate (deacon), presbyterate (priest) and episcopate (bishop). Each level of ordination confers special graces:
- Deacons - the faculty to preach
- Priests - the faculty to act in the person of Christ to offer the Mass
- Bishops - a special grace of strength, which allows him to teach and lead his flock as Christ did
Because of the significance of a bishop's responsibilities, all episcopal ordinations must be approved by the Pope. Eastern Churches allow married men to be priests; the Western Church does not. Once a man has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, however, he cannot marry. Married men are allowed to become permanent deacons.
The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders consists of the bishop's placing of his hands on the head of the ordinand and in his consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained. The ceremony is traditionally held during a Sunday Mass in a cathedral.