February 25, 2011

Our New Auxiliary Bishop

Bishop Coyne’s ordination liturgy will be historic for archdiocese

By Sean Gallagher

History will be made in many ways when Bishop-designate Christopher J. Coyne is ordained a bishop on March 2 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis.

It will be the first time since 1933 that an episcopal ordination has occurred in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

And it will be the first time that such a liturgy has taken place according to the ordination rite that was reformed following the Second Vatican Council.

So most Catholics in central and southern Indiana who will be present at St. John Church for the liturgy, watching it in a simulcast at the adjacent Indiana Convention Center or viewing it live on a webstream on the Internet will be witnessing rituals that they likely have never seen.

They are all laid out in the Rites of Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons.

The first ritual that will be new to many people will occur after the proclamation of the Gospel. It is the reading of a letter of appointment from Pope Benedict XVI since a licit ordination of a bishop can only take place with a mandate from the Holy See.

After it has been read aloud and the congregation gives its assent to the appointment by applause, the principal ordaining bishop—in this case, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein—will deliver his homily.

Following it, Bishop-designate Coyne will make a series of promises, much like candidates for the diaconate and priesthood do in their ordination liturgies.

However, in the case of the ordination of a bishop, there are more promises made. They relate to his fidelity to preaching the Gospel, to the beliefs of the Church, to the pope and to the episcopal ministry to which he has been called.

The praying of the litany of the saints follows, with Bishop-designate Coyne laying prostrate—much like what occurs in the priesthood and diaconate ordinations.

The most important ritual occurs next—the laying on of hands on the head of Bishop-designate Coyne.

However, unlike in the ordination of a priest or deacon where only one bishop is required to carry out this ancient ritual, a minimum of three bishops do so individually in an episcopal ordination.

Bishop Paul D. Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyo., and Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland will join Archbishop Buechlein in the laying on of hands as co-ordaining bishops, and while praying that the Holy Spirit come upon him.

The Rites says that having three bishops carry out this ritual is done as a sign of “the collegial nature” of the order of bishops, who are successors to the Apostles.

Other bishops present for the ordination will also lay hands on Bishop-designate Coyne. However, priests and deacons will not take part in it.

The laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination which follows are the rituals that ultimately determine the validity of the ordination.

Bishop-designate Coyne will kneel while Archbishop Buechlein, assisted during part of it by the co-ordaining bishops, prays the prayer.

It is a long prayer that speaks of the roots of the ministry of bishops found in both the Old and New Testaments, and asks God to send the Holy Spirit upon the man being ordained so that he might share in the fullness of Christ’s priesthood, and carry out faithfully its three duties of sanctifying the faithful, preaching the word of God and governing the Church.

During the prayer, two deacons will hold a Book of the Gospels over the head of Bishop-designate Coyne.

According to the Rites, this ritual, along with the presentation of a Book of the Gospels to him later, “illustrate that the faithful preaching of the word of God is the pre-eminent obligation of the office of the Bishop.”

Following this solemn prayer, Archbishop Buechlein will anoint Bishop-designate Coyne’s head with sacred chrism, a ritual which differs from a priesthood ordination when the candidate’s hands are anointed.

According to the Rites, the head of a man being ordained a bishop is anointed because of a bishop’s “distinctive share in the priesthood of Christ,” which is also expressed in the prayer that Archbishop Buechlein will pray during the ritual:

“May God, who made you a sharer of the High Priesthood of Christ, himself pour out upon you the oil of mystical anointing and make you fruitful with an abundance of spiritual blessings.”

The next set of rituals to occur are the handing on a Book of the Gospels and insignia of bishops to the new bishop. These signs are a ring, miter and pastoral staff, also known as a crosier.

The words to be spoken next by Archbishop Buechlein in these rituals explain their symbolic meaning.

  • Ring—“Receive this ring, the seal of fidelity: adorned with undefiled faith, preserve unblemished the bride of God, the holy Church.”
  • Miter—“Receive the miter, and may the splendor of holiness shine forth in you, so that when the chief shepherd appears you may deserve to receive from him an unfading crown of glory.”
  • Pastoral Staff—“Receive the crosier, the sign of your pastoral office: and keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as Bishop to govern the Church of God.”

If the man being ordained a bishop is to become the shepherd of a local Church, he is then ritually seated upon his cathedra, which is ordinarily found in the sanctuary of a cathedral. This will not take place during the March 2 ordination since Bishop-designate Coyne has been appointed only as an auxiliary bishop to assist Archbishop Buechlein.

After the handing on of the insignia of bishops, all of the bishops present at the ordination, beginning with the ordaining bishops, share a sign of peace with the newly ordained bishop.

The rest of the Mass follows as usual until the final blessing when the newly ordained bishop, accompanied by the ordaining bishops, process through the church to bless the faithful—a fitting conclusion to a historic day in the life of the Church in central and southern Indiana. †

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