Auxiliary bishop FAQs

Not sure what solemn vespers are? And why does a bishop carry around a staff? Answers to these questions and more can be found here in this handy auxiliary bishop FAQ.

What are solemn vespers?
Solemn vespers are traditional evening prayers of the Catholic Church, and a part of the Liturgy of the Hours. On the eve of a bishop’s ordination, local civic and ecumenical leaders are invited to join with the community in praying over the new bishop and putting into proper context what will happen the following day. Additionally, the episcopal insignia of the new bishop are blessed at the solemn vespers.

What are episcopal insignia?
Episcopal insignia are pieces of a bishop’s vestures that indicate the office he holds within the Church. Symbols and practices in the Catholic faith are always meant to transmit something integral to the Christian faith. As successors of the apostles, the episcopal insignia worn by Catholic bishops have been chosen deliberately and contain deep meaning. Here are a few interesting notes about the insignia worn by a bishop.

Pastoral Staff —Also called a crozier, a Catholic bishop is presented with a staff to symbolize his role as caretaker of a flock, as well as to show his authority andDENVER, CO NOV. 2, 2016: Bishop Staff, Auxiliary Bishop-Elect, Father Jorge Rodriguez gifted to the new bishop by the priests of the Archdiocese of Denver. The staff was handcrafted by Colorado wood maker Bill Gorski. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic) jurisdiction. This tradition dates back to the early Church, when the staff was made entirely of rugged wood. The pastoral staff is traditionally made in three segments: the crook, the staff, and the pediment, which is always pointed. The crozier that will be given to Bishop Rodriguez is a gift from the priests of the Archdiocese of Denver and was handcrafted by Colorado wood maker Bill Gorski.

Mitre — A bishop’s liturgical headdress was added to the vesture of the Catholic Church in the 10th century. The mitre’s origins can be traced to ancient Greece, where it is likely derived from the hats worn by champion athletes of the time. The mitre contains two fringed ribbons, also called infulae, that hang from the back.

Ring — For over 1600 years, a Catholic bishop has been given a ring at his consecration to symbolize his marriageDENVER, CO NOV. 2, 2016: Bishop Ring, Auxiliary Bishop-Elect, Father Jorge Rodriguez depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd.  A gift from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.  The ring is a symbol of fidelity to the nuptial bond Bishop Rodriguez has with the church (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic) to the church and his spiritual patronage over the faithful
of his diocese. In ancient times, these rings were pressed into wax seals on official documents promulgated by that bishop.  The ring that Bishop Rodriguez wears was a gift from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.

What is a pectoral cross?
A pectoral cross is used by the pope, cardinals, bishops, bishop-cross-selected-2abbots and other prelates of the Church entitled to use pontifical insignia. It is a sign of a bishop’s special relationship to Jesus Christ and is worn over the heart.
The pectoral cross that Bishop Rodriguez is wearing today was gifted to him by the deacons of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Why does a bishop have to be ordained?
Holy Orders are one of the sacraments of the Church, and there are technically three different ranks of Holy Orders a man can be ordained to: deacon, priest and bishop. While it is true that Bishop Rodriguez will always be a deacon and a priest, when one becomes a bishop, he enters into the highest rank of Holy Orders. It’s similar to how a transitional deacon is ordained once more when he becomes a priest. Conversely, if Bishop Rodriguez were to become a cardinal one day, he would not be ordained a cardinal, as the Church teaches that cardinalship isn’t a separate sacramental order but rather a particular position of ministry.

What is an auxiliary bishop?
An auxiliary bishop is a bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist its residential bishop in meeting the pastoral needs of the faithful. Whether in a diocese or archdiocese, his title is bishop.

What is a bishop’s motto/coat of arms?
Anytime a new bishop is ordained, the Church asks them to declare a motto and design a coat of arms, also called an ecclesiastical heraldry. The motto is intended to reflect the bishop’s beliefs and convictions within the Christian faith, while the coat of arms is a special symbol identifying the bishop. It is a long-held tradition within the Church, and as for Bishop-elect Jorge Rodriguez’s motto and coat of arms, the theme of mercy is prevalent.

Motto“His mercy is from generation to generation.” (“Misericordia eius in progenies et progenies”)

Taken from chapter one of the Gospel of Luke (Lk 1:50), this phrase also makes up part of the prayer known as the Magnificat, which was spoken by Our Lady. Bishop-elect chose this motto because mercy will be at the heart of his mission as Denver’s new auxiliary bishop. It was also fitting, he said, given his appointment to bishop occurred during this Jubilee Year of Mercy and he was appointed by Pope Francis, who has come to be known as the pope of mercy.

What is a titular see? What is the new bishop’s titular see?
A titular see is derived from a defunct ecclesiastical jurisdiction. A new bishop is made a titular bishop of a titular see if he is not the head of the diocese he is being ordained for. Since Denver already has a head bishop in Archbishop Aquila, Bishop Rodriguez will be the Titular Bishop of Azura and Auxiliary Bishop of Denver. Azura was a town in the Roman province of Numidia, located near present-day Henchir-Loulou, Algeria.

How to address an auxiliary bishop?
There’s no need to call the auxiliary bishop as such; because Bishop Rodriguez is being ordained a bishop, he can be addressed simply as “bishop” or “your excellency.”

What is the bishop’s episcopal lineage?
The episcopal lineage of a bishop is derived from the “laying on of hands” that occurs at a bishop’s episcopal ordination. The episcopal lineage traces the consecration of a bishop by a previous bishop all the way back to the apostles. For many Roman Catholic bishops, Bishop Rodriguez included, the farthest back their episcopal lineage can be traced is to Cardinal Scipione Rebiba, titular patriarch of Constantinople, who is thought to have been ordained a bishop on March 16, 1541.

COMING UP: Key moments of an episcopal ordination

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The Ordination Mass for a bishop can be a lengthy liturgy, and if you don’t know what is going on, you can miss out on a lot of rich symbolism and meaning behind the various moments of the rite.

Here’s a brief summary of the key moments of an episcopal ordination.

Procession: Over 160 priests, bishops and one cardinal will process into the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, beginning at 12:15 pm, and the procession will take approximately 15 minutes. As a side note, the 54-person choir, directed by Dr. Mark Lawlor, represents various parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Denver, and includes many seminarians.

Veni, Creator, Spiritus: The “Come, Holy Spirit” prayer is chanted after the Gospel reading, and marks the beginning of the Ordination Rite of the Mass. The ancient prayer invokes the Holy Spirit.

Presentation of the Elect: The bishop-elect is presented to the consecrating bishop by two assisting priests of the archdiocese: Msgr. Michael Glenn of Our Lady of Peace in Silverthorne and Msgr. Jorge de los Santos of Holy Rosary Parish in Denver. Msgr. Glenn will ask the consecrating bishop to ordain the bishop-elect in the name of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Apostolic Letter: The apostolic letter from Pope Francis is then read aloud by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. This letter testifies to the desire on the part of the Vicar of Christ that a man receive the third and final “degree” of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, namely, the episcopate.

Assent: After the document is read, all present give their assent to the election of the bishop by saying: “Thanks be to God.”

Nine Promises: After the homily, the bishop-elect is asked nine questions to ascertain whether the candidate is 1) prepared to discharge this sacred duty until the end of his life, 2) remaining “faithful and constant” in proclaiming the Holy Gospel, 3) maintaining without change the “deposit of faith” that the apostles have passed along down through the ages, 4) to “build up the Church as the Body of Christ,” 5) to “remain united to it within the Order of Bishops under the authority of the successor of the Apostle Peter,” 6) to guide the People of God “as a devoted father,” 7) to “be welcoming and merciful to the poor,” 8) to “seek out the sheep who stray,” 9) and to pray unceasingly for the People of God.

Litany of the Saints: The principal consecrator invites all of the faithful to pray for the bishop-elect, who then prostrates himself while the entire congregation sings the Litany of the Saints.

Laying on of Hands and Prayer of Ordination: The principal consecrator followed by the other bishops lays hands upon the head of the bishop-elect. Then, the open Book of the Gospels is placed over the head of the bishop-elect, while the principal consecrator offers the Prayer of Consecration, in part with all the consecrating bishops. The placing of the Book of the Gospels illustrates that the preaching of the Word of God is the “pre-eminent obligation of the office of the Bishop.”

Anointing and Investiture: The Book of the Gospels is removed from above the head of the new bishop. The principal consecrator anoints the head of the new bishop with the Sacred Chrism, hands him the Book of the Gospels, places the ring on his finger, the miter on his head, and gives him the crosier or pastoral staff, symbols of the office of bishop.

Seating of the New Bishop: The new bishop then takes the first place among the concelebrating bishops.

Kiss of Peace: Before the Mass continues, the Rite of Ordination ends with the kiss of peace from the principal consecrator and all the other bishops who are present, which seals the new bishops’ admittance into the College of Bishops.