The annual Chrism Mass at which oils to be distributed for sacramental use throughout the diocese are consecrated was held March 29 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass also brings priests of the diocese together to renew their promises made at ordination. Following is Bishop Finn’s homily from the Mass addressed to his brother priests:
“The Lord has anointed me; He sent me to bring good tidings to the lowly.” (Is 61:1)
Dear Brother Priests,
Today is a special day for us. The Chrism Mass has a rich meaning in the Church. While we bless and consecrate the oils, another significant part of this day is for us to gather as a body of priests, a presbyterate, and to renew the solemn and irrevocable promises we made at ordination. Holy Thursday is the day of the institution of the sacramental priesthood. The Lord God has anointed us, unworthy as we are. 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 anoints us. This is a gift from God, but not merely a signal of honor. It is an act of grace and consolation; an intimate gesture of comfort and healing for us. In Christ we are not only “marked out.” We are prepared. We are taken to the bosom of the Father, who imparts to us His Spirit; He takes us as sons even while He gives us a share in His ‘fatherly love.”
In our human experience a father is a teacher, a guardian and protector, one who provides as best he can — even when this means great cost to himself. The good father challenges but quickly comforts. He listens and observes so he can know how best to give in response to the legitimate needs of his children. He seeks to know intimately, never for the sake of taking advantage, but so that he can understand how best to offer himself for the care of those who depend on him.
My brother priests, God anoints us. He marks us out and strengthens us for service. Consecrated at ordination, we are reconfigured by a permanent sign and seal. The sweet odor of the priesthood of Jesus Christ perfects and transcends the human frailty that otherwise taints and limits our human efforts. Come Holy Spirit! Sanctify and renew us.
Along with our priests, I wish to greet our deacons, so many Religious, and our seminarians who give us reason to be hopeful. I greet our parishioners and all the faithful people who pray for us, and do so much to encourage us. Thank you for coming to celebrate this Chrism Mass, wherein we will bless the Holy Oils for Baptism and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Here we will consecrate the perfumed Chrism, with which thousands will be sealed in Baptism and Confirmation, and the altars and walls of our churches will be consecrated. I look forward with special eagerness to the priestly ordinations of May when here in the Cathedral we will welcome six new brothers: Priests-Elect Kevin Drew, Adam Haake, Adam Johnson, Ben Kneib, Ian Murphy, and Darvin Salazar. Together with Father Sean McCaffery, ordained this past December, we have a class of seven priests for the Diocese this year. In the same month of May I will have the privilege of ordaining also our Benedictine Brother Guerric Letter to priesthood, and the Society of the Precious Blood will see one of their brothers ordained, Mark Yates. Pray for all these new priests, and for our other seminarians that they will persevere to ordination, and to a long life of priestly service.
Let’s be clear: these men come with eyes open. They know that the life of the priesthood will not always be easy: that the work of the priest today is under scrutiny; sometimes under attack. But they also know that God has called them and they must answer “here I am” with all their heart. They love Jesus Christ. They love the Bride of Christ, the Church. They embrace the fullness of the Church. They love our Holy Father. They love the Sacred Liturgy. They know the vital importance of prayer.
They know that they must enter the field of the world to bring the truth and love of Christ — healing and mercy — the call to repentance — care for the poor — all in a world which, though Christian in its roots, must be reawakened in a New Evangelization. Who knows what battles lie ahead for ourselves and them, indeed for the whole Church? — for Religious Liberty, for the protection of authentic marriage and a renewed openness to life-giving marital love; for the dignity of human life in the womb, in the science lab, and at life’s end. The new priests will stand by the immigrant and the refugee; they will warn us against the calamities of war. They will comfort and reconcile the victims of abuse. They will pastor parishes: seeking to strengthen the unity of God’s people, teaching them to pray, baptizing, marrying, counseling and forgiving in the Sacrament of Penance.
Yes, through consecration with Holy Chrism, the Spirit of the Lord will be upon them – because the Lord has anointed them. They will be, and they will bring glad tidings. They will be our brothers and their zeal will help us to be better priests ourselves. When in a few moments, brother priests, we renew our promises, we must let that anointing of the Holy Spirit sink in deeply: making our hearts always new, forever faithful, more constant in prayer, less selfish, more generous.
It is also important for us to realize, my brothers, that we are not just individual priests. We gather as a presbyterate. The presbyterate is the body of priests serving the local Church — a diocese — around the bishop. This image is clear from the Church: the sign of priestly unity and fraternity is in the local Church. In this sense perhaps we are like a family in that we can not pick our members. We are who we are: saints and sinners, not so perfect and yet brothers in the High Priest, Jesus. Holy Spirit, make us one — for the glory of God, for the work of salvation.
We will ask the people to pray for us. Pray, dear friends, that we will be good and holy priests; that we will not give in to selfishness, become discouraged by attacks against the Church, or be overwhelmed by the pressures of our responsibilities. We will love one another and pray for each other. Pray also for me as I pray for you.
Dear friends all, let us place ourselves under the mantel of Mary our Mother, asking her and St. Joseph to confirm the purity of our love. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us because He has anointed us. Praised be Jesus Christ, High Priest, Anointed One, now and forever. Amen.