By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — As they will anoint with the oils blessed that evening, so has God anointed his priests and deacons, Bishop Robert W. Finn told a congregation April 14 that included nearly every priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
“The Lord God has anointed us, unworthy as we are,” Bishop Finn said at the annual Chrism Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
“He has given us a share in his eternal priesthood so that we can bring the Eucharist to his people, and so that we can announce the message of salvation,” he said.
The Mass was formerly celebrated on Holy Thursday, the day that Jesus instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper.
It is now celebrated one week earlier because of Holy Week schedules in parishes.
The date is now set aside as a day at the cusp of Holy Week for reflection for priests and deacons, who have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, before the evening Mass when the oils used in the sacraments are consecrated and blessed, then distributed to each parish.
Also at the Chrism Mass, priests renew their Commitment to Priestly Service.
This year, the theme of the day of reflection was vocations, Bishop Finn said.
Vocations to the clergy, consecrated religious life, and to lay life are “complementary,” the bishop said.
“They work together, each with its own identity and never in competition,” he said.
“Our vocation is a call from God, in Jesus Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Finn said.
“It is a supernatural reality, but comes often through natural or human means,” he said. “A vocation is for our salvation and that of others. It is for us, and for the glory of God.”
Bishop Finn said that Jesus entrusted the whole church to affirm and nurture “the authentic vocation” to clergy and consecrated religious life.
“This extraordinary responsibility of the church to “call” men to orders, and to receive the consecration of men and women, carries with it an additional duty to seek out vocations, to invite men and women to consider God’s call, and to oversee the proper formation of candidates who freely respond to God’s voice in this way,” Bishop Finn said.
“Jesus Christ is the “Alpha and Omega,” the beginning and end of all things,” he said.
“We must remind her sons and daughters of this most profound truth, which puts all our human decisions in proper perspective,” the bishop said.
That is why prayer is indispensible, he said.
“It seems impossible to know God and grow in our relationship with him unless we have made prayer a foundation and priority of our life,” Bishop Finn said.
“We must put aside significant time every day for prayer,” he said. “We must also pray for others that they will know their call and say “yes” with generosity and trust.”
Bishop Finn said the church “must want priests and religious” and “beg the harvest master for laborers.”
“Are we begging God?” he asked. “Are we depending on God’s plan for the priesthood and religious life that has been established in the church?”
“I fear that, at times, we have determined that God can accomplish his work without priests and religious,” Bishop Finn said.
“The priestly vocation of the lay faithful will always be necessary in the church. As participants in the life of grace, they must transform the culture and the world from the inside out,” he said.
“At the same time, the ordained priesthood will always be unique and necessary,” Bishop Finn said.
“The pastor’s mission is to teach, to sanctify, and to lead God’s people,” he said. “Parishes will draw richly from the apostolate of the laity, and they will always need pastors.”
On May 28, Bishop Finn will ordain Transitional Deacon Louis Farley to the diocesan priesthood. One week earlier, he will ordain eight men to the transitional diaconate, a major sacramental step toward their priestly ordinations in 2012.
And a week after Deacon Farley’s ordination, Bishop Finn will ordain one of the largest classes of permanent deacons in the diocese�s history.
It is a duty he relishes “with special eagerness,” Bishop Finn said.
“I beg parents to desire vocations to priesthood from within their families,” he said.
“I want all our priests to keep praying for more brother priests,” Bishop Finn said. “Ask God to call more religious. May God grant the local church the means and determination to foster and form those called.”
Bishop Finn also made a request of the entire congregation.
“Pray for me and for our priests, that we may be good and holy priests, that we will not give into selfishness, become discouraged by attacks against the church, or overwhelmed by the pressures of our responsibilities,” he said.
“Dear friends all,” Bishop Finn said, “let us place ourselves under the mantel of Mary our Mother, asking her and St. Joseph to confirm the purity of our love.”