Friday 4 April 2008

The Ordination Rite I

For this and the next two postings, a look at the actual rite of ordination. It took place within Mass, beginning after the Gospel reading.

The rite begins when people stand and sing the hymn 'Veni Creator Spiritus', calling the Holy Spirit to come upon the man who is to be ordained. In this case an English translation, 'Come Holy Ghost', was used.

After the hymn, two assisting priests brought Fr Michael forward to the Bishop, to present him for ordination. To the left of Fr Michael we see Fr John Murphy OSA, currently based at Fr Michael's former parish in Hammersmith, and to the right Fr James McEvoy, who teaches in Belfast. They asked the Bishop to ordain Fr Michael, and he replied: "Have you a mandate from the Holy See?" "We have", they answered, to which the Bishop responded, "Let it be read".

The mandate came from Pope Benedict, who appoints all bishops. Everybody sat while it was read in Latin by the Diocesan Chancellor, Monsignor Michael Tully, who then read his own English translation. The people gave their assent with the words, "Thanks be to God."

Fr Michael then stood before the Bishop. The rite demands that a bishop-elect is questioned at some length about his commitment to his duties, his faithfulness to God and the Church, and his desire to be a caring father and shepherd of the people under his guidance. Each question begins with the words, "Are you resolved...", and is answered with the words, "I am". The last time, the bishop-elect answers, "I am, with the help of God". It is an important reminder of our reliance on God if we are to do what is right. Finally, the presiding bishop prays, "May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfilment".

The Bishop invites everyone to pray. The Litany of the Saints follows, calling on the saints in heaven to join their prayers to ours, so that the man who is to be ordained by be strengthened by the prayers of the whole Church, on earth and in heaven. During the Litany Fr Michael prostrated himself before the sanctuary, as a sign of his absolute abandonment to God and his reliance on God's help. All of these acts: the presentation, the mandate, the questioning and the litany, prepare for the central part of the rite: the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration.