‘You belong to the Father,’ Archbishop tells Bishop Rodriguez at ordination

Aaron Lambert

It was a joyous day for the Archdiocese of Denver Nov. 4, when new auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez was consecrated to the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Cardinal J. Francis Stafford.

Watch the full ordination of Bishop Rodriguez here.

Watch highlights and hear Bishop Rodriguez reflections of the ceremony here.

Over 200 priests and deacons, 10 bishops, one abbot and countless friends, family and laypeople filled Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for the occasion. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, was also in attendance and read Pope Francis’ apostolic mandate dated Aug. 25 appointing Bishop Rodriguez to the episcopal office.

“Beloved son, as we place this responsibility upon you, it is our fervent prayer to the Lord that you zealously serve the faithful in the Mile High City so very dear to us and who are under the protection of the blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception and the paternal intercession of St. Francis of Assisi,” the Holy Father wrote in the letter.

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 4: Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez supplicates himself before the altar during his Episcopal Ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on November 4, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez prostrates himself before the altar during his Episcopal Ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Nov. 4. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

During his homily, Archbishop Aquila recounted meeting Bishop Rodriguez 18 years ago in Rome, as the rector of the newly-opened St. John Vianney Theological Seminary looking for new faculty.

“Neither you nor I and that point in history knew what God’s plan would be for our lives, and little did you know that almost two decades later, you would become the auxiliary bishop,” he told the new bishop.

Archbishop Aquila urged Bishop Rodriguez to heed closely the prayer of Jesus from the Gospel of John (Jn 6, 14-19) read at the ordination Mass and recognize that it is a prayer that extends to his ministry as the auxiliary bishop of Denver.

“Listen to the prayer of Jesus in the Gospel you have chosen for today,” Archbishop Aquila said. “That prayer is prayed not only for the disciples, but it is prayed by Jesus for you today. You belong to the Father.”

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 4: Bishop Jorge Rodriguez thanks the assembled during the Episcopal Ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on November 4, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez thanks the assembled during his Episcopal Ordination Mass. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

He added, “Let the words of Jesus penetrate your own heart, for it is he and the Spirit and the Father who consecrate you today as their bishop.”

Archbishop Aquila told Bishop Rodriguez he would be a “tremendous blessing” for the Latino community in northern Colorado, where 60 parishes offer Masses said in Spanish and over 50% of Catholics come from a Latino background.

For his concluding remarks, Bishop Rodriguez expressed his gratitude to the Lord and to all who have supported and prayed for him as he enters into the episcopate. He was especially grateful to the faithful he has served during his 10 years of service to the Archdiocese of Denver.

“I love you all,” he told the congregation. “You cannot imagine how important you’ve been in my life. The most important gift I have received are the people in the pews.”

COMING UP: Meeting Christ in the Mass and sacraments

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As Catholics, we recognize Jesus’ Eucharistic presence to be the source and summit of our faith. Nonetheless, we can take His presence at Mass and in the tabernacle for granted. We pray through our liturgical rituals, but our words and gestures can lack meaning when we simply go through the motions. When we use the beautiful ritual of the Mass and sacraments to guide our prayer, however, they can lead us into a deeper encounter with Christ.

Two recent books can help us to understand the Mass and sacraments better and to approach them with fresh eyes: Christopher Carstens’ A Devotional Journey into the Mass: How the Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion (Sophia, 2017) and Msgr. Nicola Bux’s No Trifling Matter: Taking the Sacraments Seriously Again (Angelico, 2018).

Carstens takes us on a “devotional journey into the Mass” to approach it in “a more profoundly spiritual way” (29).   He writes with a broad sacramental vision which embraces not only the Mass but also the symbols surrounding it. A great example of this comes from the first chapter, “how to enter a church building,” which reflects upon how to approach the physical building of the church itself. “So the door to the parish church, which stands before us now — is no ordinary entrance. It appears different because it is different: it is a mark of God’s house and a sign protecting those within, as at that first Passover. It is an entrance into the Great King’s city and His Temple . . . where we touch God, as in Jerusalem” (13-14). Carstens uses a “sacramental principle” to help us recognize “how God communicates with us through sensible signs” (9).

This devotional journey takes the reader through the stages of the Mass to perceive the deeper reality that we access through faith. In order to reap the fruit that God wants to give us at Mass, Carstens teaches us that “proper disposition . . . is paramount” (88). Through all of the outward actions, signs, and rituals, God aims at “something deeper:  . . . the heart of man. . . . the undivided love of man” (60; 61). For this reason, in the need for intimacy with God, “silence is an essential ingredient for both individual and corporate prayer” (35). The participation and prayers we offer at Mass should foster our relationship with God. The “conversation should take the form of prayer — a prayer of surrender” (92). Taking a devotional journey through the Mass, with Carstens’ help, should prepare us to enter into this conversation of surrender more fully each week.

Msgr. Bux, an Italian priest and professor, takes us deeper into the sometimes-forgotten history, theology, and liturgy surrounding the Mass and the sacraments. He walks us through each of the sacraments, building upon the teachings of the saints (especially St. Ambrose and Padre Pio), but also the difficulty of experiencing the spiritual reality of the sacraments in the modern world. He also leads us deeper into the Mass, “the greatest and most complete act of adoration,” noting the “interdependence between the Eucharist and the other sacraments: . . . they flow forth from the Eucharist and flow together into it as to their source” (86). The centrality of the Eucharist comes from the fact that through it we enter the heart of God.

The other sacraments reinforce this contact, as “we touch Christ” through them. This entry into the divine life begins at baptism and deepens in confirmation. Bux supports restored order confirmation, speaking of the need for strengthening and equipping for battle at an earlier age, rather than giving into the flight that usually occurs after it is received in the teenage years. When it comes to confession, Bux speaks of how “Christ pardons everyone who recognizes himself to be a sinner,” though the sacrament aims at “sincere, overwhelming interior repentance that brings the soul to be reconciled with the Creator” (103; 104). He also speaks beautifully of how through the sacrament of marriage, “spouses participate in the power of [Christ’s] love” in their love for each other. “Their love, responsible fecundity, and humility, their attitude of mutual service and their mutual fidelity, are signs of Christ’s love, present in them and in the Church” (166).

Both authors teach how to appreciate and enter into the Mass and sacraments more fruitfully, so that, in Bux’s words, we can experience “a prolongation of the liturgical life of the Church” in our own lives (196).