The Armchair Liturgist: Ordination Convention

You’ve just been promoted to director of liturgy for your diocese. You can accommodate all of the new bishop’s friends and sponsors–not to mention the faithful flock–but you have to book the local convention center to do it. You can, as Michael Sean Winters suggests, make this “dreadful concession.”

Or you can hold to tradition and cram everybody in the cathedral. Assume your bishop is a canon law expert ill-educated in liturgy. He’s leaving the decision to you. Sit in the purple chair and render judgment.

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Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Ordination Convention

  1. Hmmm – memory of place aside, I could beg the question and ask is the ordination of a bishop for the benefit of the diocesan community that is becoming the flock of this new shepherd? Or is it for the bishop and his clergy, diocesan employees and the people who can “fit” into the space? In other words, is the value the participation of as many people as possible, or is the of value that he is able to become bishop in the church building, with all its symbols (cathedra most especially) that will be under his direct pastorate? Another way to put it: is the value participation by as many of the faithful as possible, or is a “symbolic” presence of a representative number of them good enough?
    I know what the answer would be in my diocese. Admission by ticket only – in the cathedral: capacity – 800.

  2. Mike K says:

    I think Joyce says it very well: is the bishop’s ordination for himself and his closest collaborators (present and/or future) or for all the people?

    If he’s pastor of his diocese – which is the basic function of a bishop – then the ordination should be open to as many as possible. If that means a convention center, so be it. However, that could also mean a larger church outside the “See” city.

    Then, once he’s ordained, do vespers with the canonical possession so he can “officially” be seated on the cathedra. For most people, the ordination is validity enough – the rest is more bureacratic. I’ve heard of it done the other way around (vespers with canonical possession, then Mass of Installation the following day) when the bishop is already ordained.

  3. Stephen Obarski says:

    As a veteran of several Episcopal Ordinations or Installations in two dioceses (as well as a few Episcopal Funerals), I have tried for a solution that honors both ample attendance and proper sacred space.
    Where the cathedral can serve well for the ceremonies, the cathedral ought to be used.
    If the cathedral is less-than-suitable for all the rites, then perhaps Vespers for Canonical Posession, with a more ample church functioning as Procathedral pro tem is a good option.
    Both the symbolism of the Cathedral (with cathedra) AND the participation of as many faithful as possible are primary values.

  4. Liam says:

    If attendance by the faithful is going to be authentically promoted as a value such that the use of a too-small cathedral would be nixed, then I would hope it would be taken further than just choosing a larger space. A larger space may mean simply more of the priests and the network of the bishops have more room for attendance.

    So, consider also:

    1. Scheduling the liturgy on a weekend day.
    2. Situating it at a local with good public transportation access.
    3. Situating it in a space where the acoustics promote participation by the faithful during the liturgy (here, a convention center may be at a distinct disadvantage compared to a small cathedral).

    And things like these….

  5. Liam, that’s fair – the time and day are often chosen for the benefit of the clergy -and diocesan employees, not the people. I guess it says a lot about the lack of concern for the faithful in my diocese. We celebrated an episcopal ordination three years ago in the Cathedral during the daytime on a weekday, and are preparing in about a month for the ordination of an auxiliary in the same mode – admission by ticket only – daytime, weekday. Alas, because I am in the catechetical office, all I can do is watch, keep my mouth shut and ponder these things in my heart!

  6. Is it perhaps worth considering that the purpose of the clergy is to represent the Bishop to the community, who can’t be everywhere at once, but also in some sense to represent the community to the Bishop?

    Even if your stadium seats 30 thousand people, in most dioceses that’s not going to be everybody.

  7. Jimmy Mac says:

    When the new bishop of Oakland was ordained, the ceremony took place in the new Cathedral, with a seating capacity of about 1200.
    If what I heard was true, the parishes were given 2 (maybe 4) tickets to be distributed at the discretion of the pastor.
    Of course, there was plenty of room for clerics of all stripes and religious, invited non-parishioner guests, local politicians, “separated brethren”, non Christian dignitaries, etc.

    The rest of the rabble was allowed to gather on the outside to hear the words being spoken, but not to view it. They were allowed to receive communion, so long as they didn’t deign to ENTER the sacred sacerdotal space. There was an Ontology Identifier Device at all of the doors to recognize miscreants and possibly zap them sterile.

    Clericalism at its worst can be quite galling. Chalk this attitude up to galling.

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