Dear Dr. Boli: The bishop preached at our little church tonight, and I noticed he was carrying a staff with a hook in the top. It was too tall to be a cane, and anyway he walks without difficulty. So what’s the meaning of the crooked staff? —Sincerely, A Puzzled Lutheran.
Dear Sir or Madam: The bishop’s crook or crozier is an ancient symbol of episcopal authority, representing the bishop’s role as shepherd of his flock. A shepherd uses his crooked staff to retrieve straying sheep. In the same way, a bishop visiting a church, as soon as he notices any dangerous liturgical irregularity, can use the hook at the end of his staff to yank the celebrant away from the altar. At least that is how the thing is supposed to work, but Dr. Boli regrets to note that the vanity of some bishops, who have been seduced by the trappings of their exalted rank, has led them to fill the hook in the staff with intricate carved ornament, thus rendering it useless for its intended purpose.