Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Chrism Mass Is ‘Intimately Connected’ with Celebration of the Sacraments

Blessing the holy oils and the Sacred Chrism that will be used in the celebration of the sacraments throughout the Diocese in the coming year, Bishop Ronald Gainer told the congregation filling St. Patrick Cathedral for the annual Chrism Mass that it is “intimately connected with the Church’s sacramental celebration.”

The annual liturgy, celebrated in the Diocese on Monday of Holy Week, is a solemn celebration, as the oils and Chrism that will be used in the Sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation, the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders in the Diocese are blessed.

The cathedral was filled for the April 3 Mass – priests, deacons, seminarians, consecrated men and women and faithful from throughout the Diocese gathered together as members of one Body of Christ. Hundreds more watched the Mass via the livestream on the Diocese’s YouTube channel.

“It is through the sacraments that you and I begin to share life in grace through Baptism; that we are consecrated to take up the mission Christ has entrusted to His Church through Confirmation; that we are strengthened in the face of weakness and illness through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick; and that some are made to act in the person of Christ to celebrate the sacraments through Holy Orders,” Bishop Gainer said.

During the Mass, he blessed the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism, brought to the altar by deacons of the Diocese.

The Oil of the Catechumens strengthens candidates for receiving the Sacraments of Initiation as they prepare to enter the Catholic Church. The Oil of the Sick provides the sick with a remedy for illness of mind and body, so that they may have strength to bear their suffering, resist evil and obtain the forgiveness of sins.

Sacred Chrism, mixed with fragrant balsam, is used in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, in the anointing of priests and bishops during ordination, and in the dedication of new churches and altars.

All of the oils were distributed into smaller containers which the priests returned to their parishes for use in the sacraments in the upcoming year.

In his homily, Bishop Gainer reminded the priests that the oils they take back to their parishes “are visible, tangible reminders of our communion in sacred ministry.”

“You’re not merely delivering bottles of the holy oils to your parishes; these oils are the materials of our priesthood, the materials for our sacraments,” he said. “You have been anointed, so that you may anoint. The bishop has the privilege of blessing these oils and consecrating the Chrism for your sacramental ministries, which are always exercised in union with your bishop.”

Commitment to Priestly Service

The Chrism Mass is also an occasion for the Renewal of Commitment to Priestly Service, in which the priests renew the promises they made on the day of their ordination.

Standing together before the bishop, and with the support of the congregation filling the pews behind them, the priests responded in unison with “I am” to the following posed by Bishop Gainer:

  • Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred His priesthood on His Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew in the presence of your bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?
  • Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of Him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?
  • Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?

After the priests renewed their commitment, the congregation rose to stand behind them, pledging their prayers for the priests and the bishop in a tangible and moving sign of support.

“Together, we have weathered many challenges over these past few years,” Bishop Gainer addressed the priests. “By God’s grace, and through our caring for one another and for the faithful, and through the faithful’s care for us, our fraternity has been deepened and our presbyterate has been enriched.”

He then urged the faithful to continue to pray for their priests.

“Please don’t take this plea lightly. Please keep us in your daily prayers,” he implored. “May we together live this Holy Week filled with hope, a hope that derives only from our utter confidence in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest.”

Following the Mass, clergy, consecrated and laity filled the sidewalks of State Street, greeting one another on the balmy evening.

Hank and Edna Christ of St. Leo the Great Parish in Rohrerstown were among them.

“We’ve been coming to the Chrism Mass for at least a decade, and we do so because it’s important for the Church at large as well as for our Diocese,” Hank said.

“We just reconnected with a former pastor of ours, Father (C. Anthony) Miller, and we haven’t seen him in years,” he said. “This Mass brings the members of the Church together, and it’s always so good to see so many people here.”

Friends Hannah Schroer and Megan DiBernardino of Lancaster also attended the Mass – their first time doing so.

“I had seen the Chrism Mass through the livestream before, so I was familiar with the liturgy and thought it was really beautiful. It worked out with my work schedule this year to be able to go to all the Holy Week liturgies. I was excited to take that opportunity and immerse myself in the week, beginning with the Chrism Mass,” said DiBernardino, of St. Leo the Great Parish.

“I regularly attend liturgies during the Triduum, but this was a wonderful way to begin the week,” she said.

Schroer, of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, said she was moved to tears a few times during the Mass.

“It’s very powerful whenever you see priests pray for the strength to be good stewards of the Word, and that’s so necessary now,” she said. “To be able to be there and pray for the priests as we’re there behind them was beautiful to experience.”

“The bishop asked us in his homily to pray for the priests. We have that abstract concept of, ‘We should pray for our priests,’ but to actually go and make an intentional trip to do so, we were happy to be there and support them,” she said.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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