Q. What is the bishop’s “crosier,” and what does it represent?
A. The bishop’s crosier is a staff, made of either metal or wood, with a curved crook at its top. It recalls the staff used by ancient shepherds to tend their flocks. Remember how King David, who was once a shepherd himself, says in Psalm 23 that the Lord is his caring “shepherd” (verse 1), whose “rod” and “staff” comfort him (verse 4).
The crosier reminds both bishops and their flocks that he stands among them representing Christ, the “Good Shepherd,” who “lays down His life for His sheep” (John 10:11). This staff is held by the bishop when in procession; during the proclamation of the Gospel and the homily; when receiving religious vows and promises or a profession of faith; and when bestowing a blessing, except when the blessing includes the laying on of hands.
This question reminds me of an incident some years ago, when Pope Saint John Paul II was lying in state at the Vatican before his funeral. A news story from the International Herald Tribune, written by a reporter for The New York Times, declared that “tucked under his left arm was the silver staff, called the crow’s ear [emphasis added], that he had carried in public.”
They meant to say, of course, the crosier.
Remarkably, neither the reporter assigned to this major story at a major international newspaper nor even the multiple editors and proofreaders who reviewed it had a clue that “crow’s ear” was an error. This tells us volumes about how ignorant the secular press can be about Catholic matters, and about other religious traditions as well. PT