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Key moments of an episcopal ordination

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.

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