In his weekly general audience Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Sacraments, devoting today's discourse to those who receive Holy Orders, referring to it as a vocation of "service."

"Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community as servants, as Jesus did and taught," the Pope observed in his March 26 general audience, adding that "the sacrament also helps them to passionately love the Church."

Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in a rainy St. Peter's Square to hear his speech, the pontiff began by explaining that "In our catechesis on the sacraments, we now turn to the sacrament of Holy Orders."

"Building on the vocation received in the sacraments of Christian initiation," which are "Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist," the Pope explained that "the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony correspond to two specific vocations and are two ways of following Christ and building up his Church."

Comprised of the three "grades" of "the episcopate, the presbyterate and the diaconate," Pope Francis noted that Holy Orders "is the sacrament of pastoral ministry."

Recalling how "Jesus entrusted his Apostles with the care of his flock," the pontiff emphasized that "in every age the ordained make present in the Christian community the one Shepherd who is Christ," and that they are "placed at the head of the community as servants" who follow Jesus' example.

Emphasizing again the priest's role as servant, the Pope expressed that their lives should be full "of passionate love for the Church, for whose purification and holiness the Lord gave himself completely."

They ought to devote "all of their being and love to the community," he continued, "which they should not consider as their property," because "it is the property of the Lord, whom they should serve."

In a final point, the pontiff voiced the necessity of those ordained to "rekindle the gift received" on the day of their ordination "through prayer, penance, and daily celebration of the Eucharist."

"When the ordained minister does not nourish himself with prayer, listening to the Word, the continuous celebration of the Eucharist and frequently receiving the Sacrament of Penance, they end up losing the authentic meaning of service itself and the joy that derives from a profound communion with the Lord."

Concluding his address, the Pope encouraged all present to pray for "the Church's ministers," particularly "those most in need of our prayers" who experience "difficulty or need to recover the value and freshness of their vocation."

"We ask also that we our communities never lack" holy, generous, merciful and "authentic shepherds, according the Heart of Christ," he prayed.

After concluding his discourse, the Pope greeted groups of pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including those from the United Kingdom, England, Australia, Denmark, Malta, China, Japan, the United States, Spain, México and Argentina.