Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Symbols of a Bishop

pich_cutout_numbered.jpgDuring his ordination, Bishop-elect Lee Piché will receive three objects that symbolize his role as bishop: the ring, the miter and the crosier. A fourth symbol, received separately, is the pectoral cross.

1 Ring.

The episcopal ring is the first object a newly ordained bishop receives. Archbishop John Nienstedt will present Bishop Piché the ring, saying: “Receive this ring, the seal of fidelity; adorned with undefiled faith, preserve unblemished the bride of God, the holy church.”

Worn on the fourth finger of the right hand, the ring symbolizes the marriage between the bishop and the church, as well as his spiritual fatherhood over the faithful of his diocese, according to Father John Paul Erickson, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

“The power of the ring is significant, as it binds priests and the faithful to the bishop and his teaching on all spiritual matters,” James-Charles Noonan Jr. writes in “The Church Visible.”

2 Miter.

Next, Archbishop Nienstedt will place a miter on Bishop Piché’s head, saying: “Receive the miter, and may the splendor of holiness shine forth in you, so that when the chief shepherd appears, you may deserve to receive from him an unfading crown of glory.”

The miter is a headdress that points upward toward heaven.

Reminiscent of the laurel wreath that was presented to victorious athletes in ancient Greece, it has become a symbol of how the bishop will be received in heaven with his flock and rewarded for his fidelity, according to “The Church Visible.”

3 Crosier.

The final object Bishop Piché will receive during his ordination is the crosier, or pastoral staff. Archbishop Nienstedt will say: “Receive the crosier, the sign of your pastoral office, and keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishop to govern the church of God.”

Bishops represent Christ, the Good Shepherd. The crosier, a staff with a crook at the top similar to a shepherd’s staff, symbolizes a bishop’s responsibility to lead his flock to Christ.

“The crosier is the senior ecclesiastical insignia that symbolizes the pastoral authority of bishops,” according to “The Church Visible.” As such, only those with “episcopal dignity” are permitted to carry the crosier, the book adds. It may never be assumed by others, except abbots.

pectoral_crossn.jpg4 Pectoral cross.

Although not part of the ordination rite, the pectoral cross — usually made of precious metal, sometimes adorned with jewels, and suspended by a chain or silk cord — is another symbol of the office of bishop, according to Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia.

It is called a pectoral cross because the bishop wears it over the “pectus,” or breast, close to his heart.

Traditionally, pectoral crosses have contained a fragment of the True Cross, according to “The Church Visible.”

Bishops must wear a pectoral cross, a symbol of the dignity of their office, at all times, the book adds.

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