Monday, May 28, 2012

Taking Possession of the Diocese: Bishop Cary

Bishop Liam Cary
The Bishop of the Diocese of Baker is coming to his cathedral! (Well, of course we knew he would eventually).

This announcement appeared in the cathedral parish bulletin this week:

Bishop Liam Cary in Baker City - ...Bishop Liam Cary will make his first official visit to the Cathedral on the weekend of June 30 - July 1. He will also use the opportunity to ‘take possession’ of the Cathedral as its pastor. That weekend he will celebrate Mass…in the Cathedral on Sunday July 1 at 9:30 AM, as well as a Spanish Mass at 12 noon. The Folk Group have volunteered to participate at the morning Mass, the Spanish Folk Group will also participate at the Spanish Mass, and the Altar Society have been notified about possibly hosting a reception after Mass. More details to come. Stay tuned.

Now, if I didn’t know better, I’d start getting real excited about the possibilities here. And, in fact, I did. But…there are warning signs even in the announcement: "folk group" = guitars, and possibly tambourines. These people are good musicians, and there are many beautiful voices among them, but as I've said before, bad music sung well is still bad music.

And anyway, as soon as we start reading the Ceremonial of Bishops, the problems begin to make themselves painfully apparent.

Okay, first of all, Bishop Cary is not taking possession of the cathedral as its pastor; he’s taking possession of the diocese which is represented by the cathedral. The Ceremonial of Bishops tells us that (my emphases throughout):

1139  If the bishop-elect is ordained in his own cathedral church, he takes possession of the diocese through the very rite of ordination, in which the apostolic letter is shown and read and the newly ordained bishop is installed in his chair (cathedra)…

Here in the Diocese of Baker, the waters have already been muddied. The bishop-elect was ordained, but not in his cathedral; nevertheless, the letter was read, and the bishop-elect was “installed in his chair (cathedra)”…which had been unceremoniously uprooted from the cathedral and hauled half way across the state so that the new bishop could be seated in it. But the cathedral was nowhere in sight.

Ignoring our confusion for the moment, we continue reading the The Ceremonial of Bishops:

1140  If the bishop-elect…has not received ordination in his own cathedral church, he takes possession of the diocese in accord with the provisions of law as stipulated in the rite of reception

How it's s'posed to be done...
Okay, then. He wasn’t ordained in his cathedral, so he hasn’t taken possession of the diocese yet…has he?! The book says he “takes possession” via the rite of reception. So, moving onto the next paragraph, we find described the “Reception of the Bishop in His Cathedral Church” – and it sounds so very regal!

1141  …[The bishop] is received by the gathered community of the diocese and with the celebration of a stational Mass when he comes to his cathedral church for the first time.

1142  The bishop is received at the doors of the church by a minister dressed in cope, who is either the ranking member of the cathedral chapter or, where there is no chapter, the rector of the cathedral church. He offers the bishop a crucifix to be kissed, then a sprinkler of holy water, with which the bishop sprinkles himself and those present. The bishop may then be escorted to the blessed sacrament chapel, where he kneels for a moment in adoration, then to the vesting room (sacristy). There the bishop and the concelebrating presbyters, the deacons, and the ministers put on the vestments for Mass, which is celebrated in the form of a stational Mass.

Chapter”?! Are you kidding? Oh, if only…! Okay, we’ll settle for the rector as the minister who greets the bishop at the door.

1143  After reverencing the altar, the bishop goes to the chair (cathedra) and there, upon completion of the entrance song, greets the people. He then sits and puts on the miter. One of the deacons or concelebrating presbyters first shows the bishop’s apostolic letter to the college of consultors, in the presence of the chancellor of the diocesan curia, so that he may record the matter in the acts of the curia. Then at the ambo the deacon or presbyter reads the apostolic letter, to which all listen, then respond with the acclamation “Thanks be to God” or with some other suitable acclamation…

Well, darn. The letter has already been read, but not in the cathedral of the diocese of which the bishop is taking possession. Do we do it again?! I can pretty much guarantee that there will be no college of consultors, nor a chancellor, present at the Mass on July 1 in Baker City, Oregon. Well, one makes do with what one has…will the rector of the Cathedral read (er…re-read) the letter then? I’m guessing…not…

The Ceremonial of Bishops continues:

…The bishop is then customarily greeted by…the rector of the cathedral church…

…[S]ome members at least of the diocesan clergy, [and] members of the faithful…go to their bishop and offer some sign of obedience and reverence.

Of course, this is not explained any further than that; perhaps in some other rubrics, in another document? I don’t know. And frankly, I’m pretty sure that the rector of the cathedral doesn’t know either. When I was the secretary at the cathedral, there was not even a copy of the Ceremonial of Bishops in the parish office. I provided my own (and I'm willing to loan it out).

So in a way, it is not unexpected that the rector doesn’t know what to do; he’s not been taught, and he lacks the resources (unless he’s had the foresight to buy a CoB sometime in the last few years). And besides, there aren’t too many priests who want to listen to a lay woman tell them what the book says. But…continuing:

The penitential rite of the Mass is omitted…the Gloria is sung…

Again, I wonder if the liturgy planners know this. If they don’t have the book, how would they know?

1144  In the homily after the gospel reading, the bishop addresses his people for the first time.

Oops. He’s already done this…at the ordination in Bend, at the Aztec handball court. He was seated on his cathedra, and he addressed the people, and he became the principle celebrant…even though he was not in his own cathedral.

So…how should this reception of the bishop in his cathedral commence? Should all that happened in this regard – which is recorded on DVD for posterity, and is available for anyone to purchase for $20 – be repeated in the cathedral, where it should properly have taken place? Or should it all be ignored, since it’s already been accomplished…elsewhere?

Ahhh…it could have been so grand!

Still, even if this ends up just being a regular Mass with the bishop presiding (which I’m betting on), there are things that could make it special.

In the cathedral parish, there are at least 5 or 6 instituted acolytes, in addition to a permanent deacon. And then there’s the priest, of course. Imagine the grandeur of the occasion if those acolytes were all pressed into service, and vested in cassock and surplice! Maybe another couple of deacons could be imported, too (three is the rule for a bishop’s stational Mass). Throw in a few altar BOYS to round out all the necessary positions.

Now, it’s going to be a novus ordo Mass, which means that any music at all will be allowed and tolerated, and even encouraged. At least, that’s my experience. But imagine how it would be to have Gregorian chant propers, and the Missa de Angelis, all in Latin! Sung by a schola tucked away up in the choir loft! Imagine that incredible, silent-for-many-years organ put into play! Wow!

Umm…Okay, let’s get real. That’s NOT going to happen on July 1, 2012 in Baker City, Oregon. But still, there could be SOME Latin (the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, perhaps?) And the Mass of the Angels could be used, in English (sigh).

Reality is rearing its ugly head now. And if you think I'm being uncharitable, well, let me remind you that the faithful have a right to correctly celebrated liturgies. Really, shouldn't we be actively trying to preserve our Catholic identity? And for what it's worth: I AM willing to help make this a liturgically correct and beautiful celebration of our new bishop's arrival.

Please…just pray that the tambourines remain hidden in the back room. And that the little girls in high heels aren’t invited to be altar servers. And that we don’t sing the Gloria with the “clap-clap” in it.

I think I’ll plan on attending the Spanish Mass at noon.


For related posts, click on the “Bishop Liam Cary Posts” tab at the top of the page.


  1. Jay,
    Thank you for your instruction! I appreciate your sagacity! Please continue to exercise the Spiritual Work of Mercy of instructing the ignorant, even priests and bishops!
    To preserve our Catholic identity, we really need to celebrate the liturgy properly, and thus, beautifully.
    Peace and Blessings!
    - Fr. Andrew Colvin

  2. LOL! Thank you, Fr. Colvin! I do not pretend to have a lot of "sagacity", and I am almost certainly lacking in prudence, but I can read the book! I know not everyone appreciates my style (ha! that's an understatement!) but I really do mean it for the good of all of us, to the glory of God, and for the preservation of our Holy Catholic Church from glaring liturgical errors!

  3. Dr Jay, keep it coming. It may even creep over the mountains. I almost fell over last Sunday when were told the sign of peace was not a social event.

  4. Bill - wow! "Not a social event"? Hooray! That's progress. Tell your pastor it's also OPTIONAL. He could omit it altogether; it really is an interruption in the flow of things.

  5. If you are ging to do something it is worth doing right....especially when the written instructions for the Installation of a Bishop set down the rules.


Please be courteous and concise.