The sacred liturgy — during which Bishop David G. O’Connell and Bishop Joseph V. Brennan from L.A., and Bishop Robert E. Barron from Chicago were ordained as auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — lasted about three hours. The Tidings covered the Sept. 8 ecclesiastical happening with a special 44-page issue, putting together stories and photos on deadline day. What follows are some more relaxed observations from an on-the-scene scribe.
-----More than 10 minutes. That’s how long the procession into the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels takes for the episcopal ordination of these three priests. Ten-plus minutes.
Line after line of their brother priests, four abreast, just keep coming, wearing the light sandy robes of the cathedral. The press release says more than 500 Los Angeles and Chicago priests and 45 U.S. bishops — along with Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, apostolic nuncio to the United States from the Vatican — were present or concelebrating.
The bishops-elect look solemn, but then they spot relatives or friends in the pews and can’t help smiling. There’s a priest on each side of them walking down the center aisle.
Last, and alone, walk Archbishop José H. Gomez and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony. The cardinal stands out in his red-and-white “choir dress” and scarlet pillbox-like biretta hat.
Purple-robed choir members, to the right behind the altar area (sanctuary), along with the invited congregation filling the cathedral are singing with great gusto, “Lord, whose love in humble service bore the weight of human need, who died on the cross forsaken, show us mercy’s perfect deed.” (You don’t see Catholics at Sunday Mass singing like that, never mind at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.)
The faint aroma of incense blesses the air. Afternoon daylight comes through the alabaster windows. But triangular-arranged bulbs hanging from the ceiling are on, too. Also hanging from above are metal horn speakers.
Archbishop Gomez welcomes all to the cathedral, mother church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, off Temple near Downtown. (With soft earthen block walls rising high on the edge of the Hollywood Freeway, it seems like the cathedral, dedicated in 2002, was meant for such an episcopal occasion.)
“It is a day of great joy for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and for the universal Church on this feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mother,” says the archbishop before also introducing co-ordaining Archbishop Blase J. Cupich from Chicago and co-ordaining Bishop Joseph M. Sartoris, retired from L.A.
To Archbishop Viganó, he says, “Your presence is a powerful witness to the development and growth of the Catholic Church, and a special day to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”
------After welcoming T.V., radio, print and Internet media during his homily, Archbishop Gomez quips, “With the Internet, the universal Church now becomes even more universal.”
In a more serious voice, he says: “Today we have new faces of God. … The Holy Father has said that there are three basic qualities that we should look for in a bishop. That he be holy, and he prays for us. He’s learned, so he can teach us. And he’s prudent.
“So today we rejoice because we will ordain three fine priests. Chosen because they are men of prayer, learned and prudent.” Looking at the three men, he declares, “The Lord has spoken your name. Today the power of the Spirit will anoint you to be successors of the apostles.”
-----Archbishop Gomez points out how the ancient order of the Holy Fathers proclaimed that a bishop-elect is to be questioned in the presence of people, and then proceeds to do so: “Do you resolve by the grace of the Holy Spirit to be charged with the office entrusted to us by the apostles, which we are bound to pass on to you by the names of Christ?”
Faint “I do’s” come from the three, who don’t seem to be wearing mics. The archbishop also inquires about being merciful to the poor and seeking out the sheep who have strayed. “Finally, do you resolve to pray with other people to Almighty God and to carry out the office of high priest?” he asks.
After getting all positive replies, the archbishop says, “May God, who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.”
-----After Scripture readings in Spanish and Korean, and proclaiming the Gospel of Matthew 5:13-16, things get down to business. “Most Reverend Father, the church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles asks you to ordain this priest, Msgr. Joseph Brennan, to the office of bishop,” Archbishop Gomez is asked.
The same request is repeated for Msgr. O’Connell and Father Barron.
When the papal nuncio reads the apostolic letter from Pope Francis, the congregation of some 3,000 suddenly becomes silent. Archbishop Viganó concludes with “Let us pray for these episcopal candidates through the intercession of God in the matter of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ, … they may radiate the joy of the Gospel and show to all, especially those most in need, whether spiritual or material, the face of Jesus.”
The prelate from Rome then points out that the three men had met all the rights and obligations of the office of bishop according to the norms of canon law. A man in a white surplice and black cassock walks around the sanctuary holding up an enlarged copy of the pope’s letter for all to see.
----The congregation is asked to kneel for the litany of saints. The cantor sings, “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” and people chant, “Pray for us,” followed by similar requests to Saints Michael, Matthew, Simon, Jude, Mary Magdalen, Ignacious, Agnes, Lucy and others.
-----One at a time, Msgr. Brennan, Msgr. O’Connell and Father Barron approach the archbishop, sitting in the wood cathedra, his raised chair left of the altar. Each kneels before him. As the principal consecrator, he bends over each, laying his hands on the priest’s head. He recites the prayer of consecration, invoking the Holy Spirit to come down on the bishop-elect, just as the Spirit was given to the apostles at Pentecost, marking the start of the Church’s mission on earth.
Archbishop Gomez anoints each of their heads with chrism.
(According to these ancient traditions mentioned in the Bible, this is when the ordination actually takes place. It’s a little after 3 o’clock.)
After, with Bishops Brennan, O’Connell and Barron kneeling at the front edge of the sanctuary now, co-ordaining Bishop Sartoris and Archbishop Cupich, Archbishop Viganó, Cardinal Mahony and the rest of the bishops form a long line to also lay their hands over the new bishops.
The congregation erupts into applause that grows and grows to a standing ovation.
The ordained prelates are now invested with symbols of the Office of Bishops: mitre, a tall, pointed headdress denoting a sign of primacy; crosier, their pastoral staff symbolizing the Good Shepherd; and episcopal ring, showing bishops are wedded to their dioceses. (The ring was used to imprint a bishop’s seal in hot wax on church documents. And Catholics still kiss the ring as a sign of respect and reverence.)
----Mass continues with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
“Pescador de Hombres” (“Fisher of Men”) is sung at communion.
(But arguably the most moving hymn of the liturgy is the Irish traditional “Holy Is Your Name” after Communion. The choir and congregation do all five verses. “And holy is your name through all generations! Everlasting is your mercy to the people you have chosen, and holy is your name,” goes the refrain. When it comes around, members of the congregation, along with a few priests and bishops, including one new one, bring out a handkerchief or tissue.)
-----All the bishops line up again to offer a “kiss of peace” to their new brother bishops. There’s no actual kissing, but lots of heartfelt congratulations, handshakes, hugs and back slaps. The hymn “Great Is the Lord” captures the triumphant atmosphere filling the cathedral.
----It’s the new bishop from County Cork who comes to the front of the sanctuary to make a closing remark. (What’s remarkable is Bishop O’Connell’s passionate words are not what you expect. But, then again, they’re from a priest who’s worked with minorities, immigrants, the disenfranchised for 27 years in South Los Angeles.)
“The world is suffering so many things that we see all the time,” he says. “Seems like half of the poor of the world are now refugees and migrants seeking a better life. Added to all of this, our beloved Pope Francis introduces something that could bring us consolation and hope and peace and new life.
“And that is the ‘Year of Mercy,’ where he’s teaching us, going back to the teachings of St. Francis, that the way that we can receive healing and new life is to put into practice the faith that we love so much by deeds of kindness and charity and mercy and self-sacrifice.
“And that is how we can bring transformation to our own lives,” he points out, “and hope to others who are suffering.”
Another standing ovation bounces off the walls of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
----Before he gives the final blessing, Archbishop Gomez observes, “We are very lucky and grateful to Our Holy Father for our three new bishops,” adding, “They’re great, aren’t they?”