On Thursday, June 9, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, where I minister and where St. Anthony Messenger Press is based, received a great gift from Pope Benedict XVI. It came in a Roman document, held up high in the sanctuary of the cathedral, and read in an English translation from the pulpit. In the document, the pope authorized Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr to ordain Joseph Binzer, a local priest, as bishop and successor to the apostles.
For those who know Father Binzer, the moment was moving and some –this writer included–were moved to tears. The new bishop was a universally acclaimed choice around town. He’s quiet, gentle, personable. He treats each person, one priest said to me, as if you’re the only one in his world at that moment. I’ve experienced that, and the humanness of the new bishop, as well as the very human rituals surrounding his ordination, were what I took away from the ceremony.
Stressing the human dimension of the ceremony doesn’t diminish the divine, which was palpably present! It struck me immediately that we were witnessing the ordination of a “successor to the apostles.” In our cathedral, the gigantic mural of Christ giving the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter was a powerful reminder of that reality. The presence of a dozen or so brother bishops to the new bishop was another sign. And the Gospel itself, recalling Jesus asking Simon Peter to “feed my sheep,” linked Bishop Joe’s new mission to that of Christ.
But the Holy Spirit labored long in the ceremony, through many human signs. The human gestures: the laying on of hands; the embrace of peace; the anointing with chrism (both Archbishop Schnurr and Bishop Binzer had to wear “aprons” to keep the oil off the vestments!); the Gospel book, held over the head of the new bishop, like a tent; and the new bishop’s mother, proud in the first pew. For me, the ceremony became most emotional, when Bishop Joe addressed the assembly at the end. He wasn’t the only one moved to tears!
When our “emeritus” Archbishop, Daniel Pilarczyk, who had mentored the new bishop, joined with Archbishop Schnurr to walk Bishop Joe around the cathedral for a general blessing, there was a very personal sense that we had received a most human gift, from God. One of my favorites hymns, “O God, Beyond All Praising,” with music from Gustav Holst (“The Planets”), accompanied this “tour.”
The music is so soaring! Tympani and brass added to the grandeur, as these three men who are (or have been) our shepherds moved through the assembly. And the fact that I know each one–more or less–added to the sense that between each of us as members of the Church, there was a unique bond of love and service.
What I experienced, along with many others in the cathedral, was what liturgy is supposed to do: Connect the divine and the human in a way which results in a moment of understanding and deepened faith. Where we bring oil, bread, wine, incense, trumpets, pageantry–and our very human selves–there God meets us!
Photos by Mark Bowen/The Catholic Telegraph