Novena Prayer for Bishop Jeffrey J. Walsh
A novena is a tradition in the Catholic Church where the faithful pray for a special intention over the course of nine days. Traditionally, the novena is modelled after the nine days that the Apostles stayed together after the Ascension of Christ "devot[ing] themselves with one accord to prayer" (Acts 1:14). On the tenth day, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, as promised by Christ, at Pentecost. Just as the Apostles praised God at Pentecost, it is appropriate that faithful today say a prayer of thanksgiving on the tenth day, usually a day on which the novena's intention holds significant value, such as a feast day of the saint petitioned or another appropriate anniversary.
- Day One - February 23, 2022
On the first day of our novena for Bishop Walsh, we pray in thanksgiving for all his past experiences that have formed him into the man who leads our diocese. A great number of stories have come to us about Bishop Walsh’s leadership in the Diocese of Scranton and his formation as a youth. It is clear that God has been working in Bishop Walsh’s life for years in preparation for his transition as a bishop and we look forward to the fruits of that formation.
- Day Two - February 24, 2022
For the next several days of our novena, we will be emphasizing different symbols of the bishop’s role and what they mean. Each is based on moments throughout the episcopal ordination or insignia that the bishop is presented. Today, we are reflecting on the Book of the Gospels.
At an episcopal ordination, the ordaining bishop holds the Book of the Gospels over the head of the new bishop while reciting the Prayer of Ordination. This represents the preeminent obligation of the office of the bishop to faithfully preach the Word of God. The Book of the Gospels is later presented to the new bishop with the commission to evangelize with great patience.
Let us pray that Bishop Walsh may have the grace to preach the Word of God “as if fire is burning in his heart, imprisoned in his bones” such that he cannot help but proclaim it” (see Jer. 20:9).
- Day Three - February 25, 2022
After the Prayer of Ordination, the new bishop is anointed on the head with Sacred Chrism, signifying his full share in the priesthood of Christ. In the role of the bishop, the priestly vocation extends beyond the parish church to an entire diocese, wherein the bishop exercises the power to ordain new priests, direct current priests, and make decrees that effect all the faithful in their diocese. The bishop is immediately obedient to the pope, where priests are more immediately obedient to their local bishop.
Let us pray that Bishop Walsh may have the grace to love by “walk[ing] in obedience to [God’s] commands” as priest and bishop (see 2 John 1:6).
- Day Four - February 26, 2022
After the Bishop is presented with the Book of the Gospels, he is presented with the Pontifical Insignia. The first insignia is the ring. Similar to a wedding band worn by married couples, the ring represents the fidelity of the bishop to the Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ. Just as a husband is called to be faithful to his wife, the bishop is faithful to Tradition and the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church). This fidelity is further exemplified in the bishop’s priestly vow of celibacy, whereby he reserves himself for the Church by forgoing a spouse and family of his own.
Let us pray that Bishop Walsh may have the grace to be a “servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God” (see 1 Cor 4:1-2).
- Day Five - February 27, 2022
The second Pontifical Insignia presented to the bishop is the mitre, that is the pointed headdress worn during liturgies. The mitre is a sign of the bishop’s consecration, his being “set aside for the service to God’s people.” The tradition dates to the high priesthood established in Exodus, where the priests wore a headdress inscribed with the words “Sacred to the Lord” (Exodus 39:30). The front and back boards of the mitre represent the Old and New Testament. The two lappets (the tassels that fall from the back of the mitre) represent the ‘spirit and letter’ of the law. Since the bishop is called to preach the Word of God, the “Word must take root within him, must become his very identity.” Thus, it is essential that the bishop be committed to growing in holiness and continuously deepening his commitment to God.
Let us pray that Bishop Walsh may have the grace to “put away his old self ... and be renewed in the spirit of his mind, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (see Eph 4:22-24).
- Day Six - February 28. 2022
The final Pontifical Insignia that the bishop is presented is the crosier, the hooked staff. The crosier immediately evokes the image of a shepherd, as it represents the call of the bishop to pastor the people of his diocese. The bishop is responsible for leading the faithful towards Christ, keeping them in the fold of the Church, and welcoming new members into the Church.
Let us pray that Bishop Walsh may have the grace to lead the flock of the Good Shepherd and answer Christ’s call to “feed my sheep” (See John 21:15-19).
- Day Seven - March 1, 2022
After being presented with the Pontifical Insignia, the new bishop is invited to sit in the cathedra, the chair of the bishop. The cathedra, literally “chair” or “seat,” should be in a place of prominence in the cathedral (the ‘seat’ of a diocese) and is usually adorned with the coat of arms of the current bishop. The cathedra represents the teaching authority of the bishop. For example, when the pope, the bishop of Rome, makes a declarative teaching on matters of faith he does so ‘ex cathedra,’ literally “from the Chair” of Saint Peter. Through apostolic succession, the bishops share in the authority Christ gave the Apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Let us pray that Bishop Walsh may have the grace to “guard what has been entrusted to him” as a fierce defender and teacher of the faith (see 1 Tim 6:20).
- Day Eight - March 2, 2022
Bishop Walsh has chosen “Divine Providence” as his motto due to his personal experience of relying on the providence of God throughout his life.
From the Heraldic Achievement of Bishop Walsh:
“[The] almighty God bestows grace, wisdom and strength to enable each person to understand and embrace His Will in every moment…God leads the individual step by step through his life and vocation, always tending toward the fulfillment of life in Heaven.”
Let us pray that Bishop Walsh may have the grace to trust that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
- Day Nine - March 3, 2022
As the patron of the Diocese of Gaylord and patron of Bishop Walsh’s last parish assignment in the Diocese of Scranton, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a fitting patron to call on to petition for our new bishop. The devotion to Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel started with the Carmelite monks who founded a monastery in the early 13th century on the slopes of Mount Carmel, where Elijah passed on his prophetic ministry to Elisha and was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2). The Carmelite Order spread across Christendom, soon reaching England where St. Simon Stock received a vision of Mary in 1251. Our Lady presented Stock with the Brown Scapular with this promise: "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."
Let us pray that our Blessed Mother bring Bishop Walsh into the folds of her mantle and watch over his soul with all her love and tenderness.
- Day of Thanksgiving - March 4, 2022
As we conclude our novena, please join us in praying this prayer of thanksgiving to God for providing us our shepherd, the Most Reverend Jeffrey J. Walsh.