A priest is an ordained member of the clergy in many Christian churches and denominations, including Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Syriac Catholic, and Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches; as well as some Protestant churches, and others.
In most cases, priests are required to be male. Priests typically serve within a temple or church building.
However, they may also work from their homes or other locations such as schools, hospitals, or retirement communities and may perform additional duties outside their formal religious obligations, such as chaplaincy services for prisons and hospitals.
The role of the priest has varied significantly over time.
Generally, it involves presiding at sacred rites (such as baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, and christenings), celebrating Mass, serving as spiritual advisers, performing certain liturgical functions, acting as a judge before God in matters relating to sin and guilt, giving absolution after confession, blessing people with holy water and/or oil, giving last rights to dying persons, and burying the dead.
In Christianity, the function of priests varies considerably between different traditions and organizations. In some practices, the priesthood is restricted to men; in others, it extends to women.
In some places where there are no priests, the task of administering sacraments might be performed by deacons or bishops.
In many religions, priests usually have more authority than pastors, evangelists, and missionaries.
In contrast to private prayer or meditation, a sermon is a short speech given by priests during worship as part of public preaching within a Christian denomination or faith tradition.
Addresses are intended to instruct and edify congregants by providing information about specific topics to help them live a better life.
They may include biblical references, personal anecdotes, cultural observations, humor, illustrations, stories, poetry, quotations, hymns, music, teachings from church leaders, sermons written by famous speakers, historical accounts, or reports from news sources, etc.
There are various ways of delivering sermons. One form is the homiletic style of preaching. A preacher gives an extended discourse based on Scripture, often including comments about contemporary events or issues.
Homiletics tends to focus on expounding the text in its original context and showing how it applies today.
Others take a pastoral approach, speaking directly to individual needs, concerns, and situations. In addition, many religious denominations differ in their preferences for preaching styles.
Some prefer a simple spoken message that emphasizes the direct application of Bible verses. In contrast, other churches emphasize more elaborate forms that draw attention away from the pulpit and toward the audience.
Sermonettes are shorter versions of sermons, often delivered by radio or television preachers who lack time for a full-length speech. These messages are more straightforward than traditional sermons and give only a few minutes’ instructions per day.
A blessing is typically a formal act of homage by a priest, bestowing special favor or grace.
The most familiar type of blessing occurs when a cleric recites certain words aloud over a newly-wedded couple, such as the wedding benediction or the marriage blessing.
This may be accompanied by a kiss. Other examples include the blessing of new houses or the inauguration of new buildings. In some cases, the words of the gift are changed to reflect the occasion.
Other types of blessings include the “Anointing” (or Anointing of the Sick), where oil or perfume is poured over the sick person. Another example is the blessing that follows baptism. In addition, blessings include:
- The gift of a room.
- The blessing of a house/building.
- The blessing of food and drink.
Ceremonies are public rituals performed by priests with prescribed steps intended to achieve specific purposes. They are social acts whose primary goal is to express something meaningful to participants.
Ceremonies usually involve group behavior, mainly if many people are involved. Although they are often complex, ceremonies are built around a few essential elements or stages: a greeting, a greeting response, a professional, a speech, and an exit.
The first two stages occur in a given order until all participants have greeted each other. During these stages, activities are designed to welcome and acknowledge the participants.
These welcoming aspects can vary widely depending on the context and purpose of the ceremony. Examples include shaking hands, exchanging gifts, offering flowers, sharing jokes or stories, passing literature, etc.
The next stage involves the procession, an orderly movement from one location to another. Participants walk down the hall aisle (e.g., a funeral home), pass in front of a podium, and cross a threshold.
Then, they take seats, stand, kneel, bow their heads, pray, receive communion, return to their seats, leave the building, etc. Again, it varies from religion to religion and depends on the occasion.
A priest performs a wedding service. The wedding ceremony may be performed by a priest, rabbi, imam, or another religious leader. If the couple chooses, they may marry before a justice of the peace or a judge.
In many cultures, the bride and groom exchange rings before the wedding ceremony begins. After the ceremony, the couple exchanges rings again. They then sign legal documents that state that they are married.
A priest often brings people together in prayer. This may happen regularly or on a special Easter or Christmas. They may also invite others to join them in prayer. In addition, they may ask for specific intentions. For instance, a wedding couple will make vows to each other.
Priests give marriage advice. Priests may say prayers at funerals, weddings, and christenings. Priests give blessings at baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, burials, First Holy Communion, and Confirmations.
Priests administer the sacraments, including the Eucharist. A priest may give absolution, forgiveness, and reconciliation to penitents.
In addition, they hear confessions; pronounce sentences of ex-communication; bless marriages and civil unions; consecrate churches, cemeteries, statues, and objects; baptize children and adults; celebrate Mass; distribute communion at weddings, funerals, and baptisms; perform marriages, and provide last rites.
Some priests become teachers or pastors, assisting congregants in spiritual formation.
A priest blesses things used in daily living, such as food and drink. Blessings are also done for homes, buildings, rooms, furniture, clothing, animals, land, water, tools, money, etc.
They can also be done for special occasions like weddings and funerals. Priests can perform many religious ceremonies, but some common ones are blessing a marriage, a baby, or a house.