"You aim at a devout life, dear Philothea, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God's Divine Majesty," says St. Francis de Sales in his book "Introduction to the Devout Life".
And we can all be Philotheas, as St. Francis notes: "I have made use of a name suitable to all who seek the devout life, Philothea meaning one who loves God."
I suppose some people
might think I’m obsessed with the ordination of a new bishop for
the Diocese of Baker. I am! I’m thinking this is not a common occurrence for
anyone! How many times will I have the opportunity to witness the ordination
of a new bishop for my own diocese?
Some of us have endured
some trials over the last year, and we have been praying hard – not just for a
new bishop, but for a wise and holy bishop who is true to the teachings of the
Church, and who will recognize and act according to the mens of the Holy Father. You know: someone who is already a saint!
Okay, we know that’s
not probable. Still, by all accounts, Bishop-Elect Fr. Liam Cary is at least a good
candidate! I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, as well as my heartfelt
prayers as he turns a new page of his priestly history.
So, due to my
obsession, I’ve been examining the Rite of Ordination of a bishop as described
in The Roman Pontifical, second
typical edition (all of the quotes below are from that document)…because that’s
another obsession I have: liturgy by the book.
The Roman Pontifical opens with a
description of sacred ordination:
sacred Ordination certain of the Christian faithful are appointed in the name
of Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to shepherd the Church with
the word and grace of God.
You see, it’s special,
this ordination. Only certain of the faithful may receive this gift…only certain
men…only certain priests.
with the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders,”
Bishops, “through the Holy Spirit who has been given them” at Ordination, “have
been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, high priests, and shepherds.”
As such they preside over the Lord’s flock in the person of Christ the Head.
A bishop receives the fullness
of the sacrament. Priests, the Pontifical
tells us, do not possess the fullness of the high priesthood; they are
dependent on the bishops for the exercise of their power. This is not to diminish
the importance of the order of the priesthood; but thinking about it this way helps
make clear to me the increased responsibilities of the bishop.
Ordination is conferred by the Bishop’s laying on of handsand the Prayer of
Ordination by which the Bishop blesses God and calls upon the gift of the Holy
Spirit for the fulfillment of ministry.
For from tradition…it is clear that the laying on of hands and the Prayer of
Ordination bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit and impress a sacred character in
such a way that Bishops, priests, and deacons are, in their respective ways, conformed
As I read, it’s beginning to dawn on me, just how sacred
and important this ordination of a bishop really is. The man is already a
priest – “consecrated to preach the Gospel, to shepherd the faithful, and to
celebrate divine worship” – andthis
new ordination liftshim to a higher
level. He will be responsible for a much larger flock than the pastor of a parish
– and he must also be a father to his priests. Since he will have greater
duties and responsibilities, he needs greater divine gifts in order to meet
them.A man could not meet these
requirements of the office of bishop on his own power.
Next, the Pontifical considers “the structure of the celebration”:
7 The laying
on of hands and the Prayer of Ordination make up the essential element of every
Ordination; the prayer of blessing and invocation specifies the signification
of the laying on of hands. Accordingly, since these rites are the center of an
Ordination, their meaning should be instilled through catechesis and brought
out clearly through the celebration itself.
the laying on of hands is taking place the faithful should pray silently. They take
part in the Prayer of Ordination by listening to it and by affirming and
concluding it through their final acclamation.
Call me weird (I’ve been called worse),
but I love reading documents like this one: it lays out the elements of the
celebration, their significance, and the manner in which they are all to be
accomplished and integrated. As I read through it, I start imagining how the
celebration actually looks, and how it is meant to impact us spiritually. I
start to anticipate a reverent liturgy that will be filled with the majesty of
God’s power and grace. I imagine the effect on the candidate receiving the
sacrament, as he is filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I start to think
about the chants for the Mass…
[Eeerrch. Sound track screeches to a halt.] At that point, harsh reality breaks
through. All of a sudden I can hear the bad music (even if performed well): a
mish-mash of musical styles; guitars, tambourines, and saxophones; “contemporary”
songs with watered-down theology…
Then the pessimist in me takes over, and I
cringe as I anticipate some added elements that are not called for in the
rubrics (like Native American blessings of water, or Aztec dancers in
traditional native dress, or liturgical dancers with bowls of incense…).
And I weep, because it always seems to
work out this way... when it could be so beautiful.
It could be so…dare I say it?...manly.
Let’s pray that we are NOT left with the
sense of having been to the victory party of a candidate who just won a secular
election, and who is giving his acceptance speech.
Let’s pray that we come away from this
ordination with the sense that we’ve been to a ceremony with the worship of God
at its center.
Let’s pray that the ordination of the next
bishop of the Diocese of Baker observes all of the liturgical rubrics that will
help us to understand the solemnity of the occasion and the dignity of the
Let’s pray that we are left with a sense
of awe and reverence, of humility and hope.