Taking a walk through the rite of ordination: A priest becomes a bishop during a sacrament rich in prayer, beauty

By Catholic New World
Sunday, August 14, 2011

On Aug. 10, Alberto Rojas and Andrew Wypych will be ordained as bishops of the Catholic Church. Before ordination they are priests. Through the sacrament of ordination they become bishops of the church.

What are the steps followed during that sacrament? To answer that question, the Catholic New World sat down with Todd Williamson, director of the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship. He walked us through the rite of ordination, which follows the reading of the Gospel.

The elements are as follows:

“Veni Creator Spiritus”

The singing of “Veni Creator Spiritus,” a ninth-century hymn that is included in every episcopal ordination. The text, attributed to Rabanus Maurus, is a plea for the Holy Spirit to grace the proceedings with his gifts.

Presenting the men

The presentation of the bishopsdesignate by the president of the Presbyteral Council, in this case Father Jeremy Thomas. Thomas will request ordination of the new bishops in the name of the Catholic community.

Following that, the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI will be read. The letter authenticates the discernment process of the church and the Holy Father’s choice of these priests for ordination to the episcopate. The community, represented by the congregation, expresses its consent with applause.

Cardinal examines

The main celebrant and consecrator, Cardinal George, offers his homily and then examines the candidates, questioning them about their commitment to guard the deposit of faith; to build up the body of the church; to be obedient to the pope; to guide the faithful; to be welcoming and merciful to the poor, strangers and those in need; to seek out the “sheep who stray” and return them to the fold; and to pray without ceasing for the faithful and to carry out the office without reproach. The questions provide a clear outline of the responsibilities of the bishop, according to Todd Williamson, director of the Office of Divine Worship.

Litany of saints

The candidates prostrate themselves — lie face down on the floor — while the rest of the assembly kneels and chants the litany of the saints, seeking their intercession for the candidates. This is a part of every ordination.

Laying on hands

The main consecrator, the co-consecrators and all of the other bishops present silently lay their hands on the head of the new bishops, using the same gesture to express the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was used by the apostles when the appointed their successors. (See photo at left.)

Prayer of consecration

The new bishops kneel while the Book of the Gospels is held open over their heads. The main consecrator begins the solemn prayer of consecration, with the other bishops present joining him for a portion of it.

The prayer asks God to “pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit, whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy Apostles, who founded the church in every place to be your sanctuary for the unceasing glory and praise of your name.”

Anointed with oil

The consecrator anoints the head of the bishop with oil. Anointing is a sign that was used to show authority. “Kings were anointed, prophets were anointed, Christ was the anointed,” Williamson said.

Symbols of the office

Each new bishop is presented with the symbols of his office, including the Book of Gospels, which represent his ministry of preaching and teaching, and the ring, the miter and the crosier, which reflect the role of the bishop as one who gathers and shepherds the people of God. (See photo above.)

Kiss of peace

Each of the bishops present offers the kiss of peace to the new bishops as a sign of welcome into the episcopacy.

The Mass then continues with the creed.