On Saturday, February 5, 2023, the Oratory of St. Leo the Great, an apostolate of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) in Columbus, Ohio, celebrated a Solemn High Mass with Pontifical Assistance at the Throne on the occasion of the first apostolic visit of His Excellency, Most Reverend Earl K. Fernandes, Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus. This was the most beautiful and most extravagant Mass to take place in the Diocese since the 1960s.
For those who are unfamiliar with the ICKSP, they are a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, meaning they have been established to serve a particular purpose within the Church. Being of Pontifical Right means they have particular permission of the Supreme Pontiff to exist. The charism of the ICKSP is the celebration of the Mass and the administration of the sacraments in the usus antiquior - colloquially, we could say the “Old Rite.” This is most visibly obvious in the ICKSP’s use of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).
The Mass, in all its fullness, is meant to be offered with the bishop as the chief celebrant. This is known as a Pontifical Mass. Traditionally, the bishop would only celebrate Mass publicly on particular feast days. On other occasions, the bishop would be present, but his role would be minimized. There are three different ways in which a bishop would attend a Mass he is not celebrating.
1. In corum episcopus. In this, the lowest level of episcopal assistance, the bishop simply sits in choir - meaning he sits in the sanctuary in choir dress.
Bishop Fernandes in choir dress
2. Attendance at the Throne In cappa magna. In this level of pontifical assistance, the bishop wears the large episcopal cape and sits upon the Throne, set up on the Gospel (left) side of the sanctuary. He will also offer an episcopal blessing at the end of Mass.
Cardinal Burke in cappa magna
3. Pontifical Assistance at the Throne in Cope. This is the highest level of episcopal assistance. In this Mass, the bishop is solemnly received in the back of the Church, he proceeds to the altar under canopy, he offers a prayer for the titular saint of the Church, he is vested in cope, he leads the prayers at the foot of the altar, he offers all the blessings of the Mass, such as the blessing of incense, the blessing of the subdeacon who chants the Epistle, and the deacon who chants the Gospel, he offers the sermon, and offers an episcopal blessing at the end of Mass.
Bishop Fernandes at the Throne in Cope
Not only did Bishop Fernandes assist from the Throne, Canon Matthew Talarico, the Provincial Superior of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in the United States served as the chief celebrant, Canon David Silvey, Rector of St. Leo Oratory served as deacon, Abbé Lance Gerbig, Oblate and Sacristan at St. Leo Oratory served as subdeacon, Rev. Tyron Tomson, Pastor of St. Bernadette parish in Lancaster and St. Mary parish in Bremen (Diocese of Columbus) served as the assistant priest, Rev. Daniel Overa, Parochial Vicar of St. Paul parish in Westerville (Diocese of Columbus) and Rev. Michael Fulton, Parochial Vicar of Christ the King and St. Thomas the Apostle parishes in Columbus (Diocese of Columbus) served as Deacons of Honor, and Abbé Alex Barga of the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, the ICKSP apostolate in St. Louis, Missouri served as Master of Ceremonies.
Bishop Fernandes offering the sermon
The St. Joseph Cathedral Choir sang the Mass and offered a heavenly combination of Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony including Kyrie - Missa Prima Sexti Toni by Giovanni Croce (1577-1609), Gloria - Missa Prima Sexti Toni, Credo III - Et Incarnatus Est by Orlando di Lassus (1530-1594), Offertory Motet: Jubilate Deo by Luca Marenzio (1553-1599), Sanctus & Benedictus - Missa Aeterna Christi Munera by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594), Communion Motets: O Salutaris Hostia by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) and O Esca Viatorum by Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517), and Recessional: Hail Redeemer King Divine by Patrick Brennan, C.S.S.R (1877-1952) (lyrics) and Charles Rigby (1901-1962) (music). They were led by Diocesan Director of Music, Dr. Richard Fitzgerald, and assisted by organist Robert Wisniewski and trumpetist James Becker.
Faithful from the Diocese of Columbus and beyond were in attendance for this standing-room-only event. The chatter and coos of young children could be heard in all corners of the Church throughout the Mass - a testament to not only the future growth of the Traditional Latin Mass, but the attraction that young families have to the TLM. Following the Mass, Bishop Fernandes greeted and blessed the faithful.
St. Leo Oratory was erected in October, 2020 by Bishop Robert Brennan (now the Bishop of Brooklyn). The Church, a former diocesan parish that had been closed since 1999, had been preserved by the St. Leo Preservation Society. Since the erection of the Oratory in October, 2020, the parish has grown significantly, as new families discover the TLM, and existing families continue to have more children.
Click to view the Solemn High Mass with Pontifical Assistance at the Throne.