14th Bishop of Charleston!
Snapshots from the bishop's ordination, and how to skip right to the fun parts on YouTube.
Someone (I still don’t know who) put me on the invitation list for Bishop Fabre-Jeune’s ordination, and I’m pleased to report that over eight hours into his episcopacy I still have no complaints.
What follows are a few notes from the event, and let me just warn you now: It was fun. If you are not a fun person, this is your chance to go click on some other thing.
No really. Just go. Only fun-appreciating people should keep scrolling. The rest of you skedaddle.
Okay. If the room’s emptied out, should be safe to enjoy a few exclusive cellphone pics from the back of the hall, and of course my priceless commentary.
I’ll be referring as well to this YouTube recording of the Mass, and giving you timestamps for a few highlights.
So. Our first indication that this was not going to be quite like Bishop Baker’s ordination (the only other episcopal ordination I’ve attended) were these guys out front of the Charleston convention center:
What you’re looking at (I’m just going to do image descriptions in the text here with each pic, since even sighted people might be struggling with my excellent photography skills): A band set up in the middle of the sidewalk playing festive music, with a giant circle of people dancing around them. The only bit of lyrics I picked out was “gloria” but that about sets the mood.
Anyone could join in, and people did. It was fun. I warned you there was going to be fun in this post.
Alas I missed whatever performing may have been done by my eventual pewmates:
In black and yellow there, with an image of Jesus on the back of her skirt, is one of the dancers from Danza San Felipe de Jesús. That tube-shaped fringe, which up close looks kind of like elongated shotgun shells but they are not, jingle when the dancers move. I knew when they slipped passed me into the row that we weren’t here for a sedate Mass.
Nope, not sedate.
Of course everyone knows all about the Knights, and the other Knights. Here is a small, small portion of the long line of Catholics With Special Uniforms getting ready to process:
Those are Knights of Peter of Claver in the traditional yellow silk capes and blue plumed hats in front of the Our Lady of Guadalupe altar, and in front of them one of the many Knights of Columbus now going for the sporty and low-key suit and beret but they all still have swords and that is the important thing. Not shown in my photo: Boy Scouts, Hibernians, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
Around 9:50 on the YouTube video (sorry no captions, and I have no idea what the sound quality is like because my laptop no longer makes sound, but the camera work is good) you can see where the pre-procession starts to get interesting. Not that seeing all the deacons come in isn’t interesting, too. No offense, deacons. You guys are the best. I love you. I do. I’m sorry you don’t have capes and swords, someone needs to fix that.
Interestingly, the statue of Our Lady was content to rest in her field of flowers, I don’t recall seeing any processing on her part. So there was definitely some restraint going on.
Here’s the flag of the Haitian Catholic Community of Atlanta, Georgia:
It’s a flag that sums up the experience: Here we have a super-traditional icon of Our Lady and the child Jesus, but also anytime you saw that flag get moving? Something interesting was afoot.
First reading was in Kreyol (30:00 mark), and now I have to go around just saying Mèsi Bondye all the time. It sounds basically the same as Merci, Bon Dieu, except more enthusiastic.
We’ll come back to that flag and the offertory in a bit. First, though, an interlude of enthusiasm.
Skip ahead on the YouTube to 1:02:00. The nuncio has just coughed up the letter from the Holy See nominating the would-be bishop to the post, and bishop-elect Fabre-Jeune receives the giant document and holds it up first to all the bishops seated around the altar. Then he takes it down to the gathered assembly and does a circuit of the whole room, showing everyone the letter.
People are stoked. Cheering erupts as he passes. Hopefully the sound on YouTube captures some of it?
Anyway, he goes on to get ordained, and it’s great, and I’m skipping a lot of bits because it’s three hours and this is just some highlights. Watch it if you want to know more.
Meanwhile, there’s this fruit:
I figured when I saw these baskets of fruit lined up at the back of the room that they were probably going to be used in the offertory, and indeed they were. What I did not anticipate was just how much we were leveling-up on our offertory experience.
On the YouTube go to about 1:46:00. You can start a little early if you don’t want to miss anything at all, but right about there is when the camera picks up on the women bringing forward the offering, and they are dancing, and it is happy and fun and this is why I had to send the grumpy people away.
This is not a liturgy blog, but I want to emphasize that there was not a moment in this three hours where the enthusiasm and devotion of the laity was the least bit contrived or affected. I don’t know whether it conveys well on video, but in real life I can assure you that what happened was loving and joyful and reverent.
Here are a few lines from the translation in the program of one of the Kreyol offretory hymns:
We walk in darkness, we bleed, we are dragged, we are dragged, we suffer, we seek salvation . . .
. . . We bring before you the bread and the wine, which make your body and blood.
That’s the theology behind those ladies dancing up the aisle.
If you’d like an intro to Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune’s personality and speaking style, he steps up to make his thanks and remarks at about 2:46:40. I didn’t realize quite how long he spoke, so if you want to get straight to the part with the head of lettuce (actual lettuce, which he peels leaf by leaf, but alas it is a little too well washed for his metaphor), skip to 3:13:30. I say back up at least a few minutes before the lettuce, though, and hear the miracle-containing story of when his devotion to Our Lady began.
And at 3:26:00ish, looks like the bishop is singing along to the Kreyol hymn, and then some different Haitian ladies in white shirts and blue skirts are dancing for the recessional. In the distance, and it doesn’t show up so well in the video, some of the women in the side-aisles had these silver and gold flags:
This photo was taken after the recessional was over and the music kept going, and you can see the flag ladies have come back up to the choir and a portion of the very-fun people are continuing to celebrate.
I am not the kind of person* who would ever say to you Oh what this Mass needs is people dancing with flags? But it was good.
Okay and final photo, here’s proof I was there. That’s me in front of the altar to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and yes under that festive outer face-covering there is an N-95 slapped on so tight I still have lines from how aggressively it passed the fit-test, because: Doing massively better than this time a week ago, trying to keep it that way.
*Rumors that all it takes to placate me is the Missa de Angelis Gloria are not entirely unfounded.