||Bishop Morlino distributes the holy oils to parishes around the diocese. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
MADISON/VATICAN CITY -- The Chrism Mass is held every year during Holy Week to bless the oils to be used throughout the year for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and the Anointing of the Sick.
The Mass also is an opportunity for priests to gather and to renew the promises they made at ordination.
Bishop Robert C. Morlino presided at the Chrism Mass in the Diocese of Madison on the Tuesday of Holy Week, March 30. Hundreds of priests, religious, seminarians, and laity filled St. Maria Goretti Church for the diocesan celebration.
After acknowledging the presence of Bishops William H. Bullock and George O. Wirz, Canon John Pintabone, Fr. Isaac Mary Relyea, and the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre in his opening remarks, Bishop Morlino thanked all of the priests from around the diocese who came to the Mass.
“This is the Year for Priests,” he said. “And this Mass tonight is the very special Mass the Church offers with and for priests through the year. Tonight is our special moment of prayer and brotherhood, and I’m so grateful God gives us that gift.”
The bishop also read a certificate of authentication and presented a flag that had been flown at FOB Sharana in Afghanistan, the base where the support battalion including diocesan priest Fr. Jason Hesseling, currently serving as army chaplain, had been stationed. Father Hesseling, returned for a tour, was present at the Chrism Mass and will be soon rejoining his battalion.
The priests and the seminarians were all treated to lengthy rounds of applause that the bishop said showed how much they were loved: “We could go on that way applauding, but some of you want to get home,” he said.
Later in his homily, the bishop spoke of priests as being “indispensable.” But our human weakness and the world’s failure of valuing doing more than being can lead to weariness, he said.
“But the whole point of the laying on hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit is that we are not doing things for Christ; we are doing things with Christ,” the bishop said. “So instead of getting tired out at the beginning of a day when we think of all the things we have to do for Christ, we should be brought to life at the thought of spending a day with Christ doing the best we can.”
Christ shared our human weakness, bishop said. But it was through our weakness that he showed his strength.
“Dear brothers and sisters — we cannot lay on the priests the expectation that they not be weak. Jesus Christ was weak — but he was God,” he said. “We pray for them that the Lord will uses that weakness, when it appears, to show forth his strength.”
The people’s prayerful support is necessary, he said.
“That loving support you showed a little while ago should walk with my brother priests every minute of every day. . . . Let the Year for Priests not pass as just some other observance.”
In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Chrism Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday, April 1. During the Mass he blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and the Anointing of the Sick throughout the Diocese of Rome.
During the liturgy, the pope also led hundreds of priests and bishops in a renewal of their ordination promises.
The holy oils, the pope said, are at the center of the liturgical action at the Chrism Mass and serve as an expression of the Church’s unity. They hold together the entire liturgical year, anchored in the mystery of Holy Thursday.
In the various sacraments, he said, consecrated oil is always a sign of God’s mercy. “So the meaning of priestly anointing always includes the mission to bring God’s mercy to those we serve.”
Oil as a sign of mercy, peace
The pope also spoke in his homily of the call for all Christians to struggle against violence and to do what is just and good — that Christians should be people of peace. They should be people who recognize and live the mystery of the cross as a mystery of reconciliation, he said.
“Christ does not conquer through the sword, but through the cross. He wins by conquering hatred. He wins through the force of his greater love,” he said.
“The one who suffered was stronger than the ones who exercised power,” the pope said. “In his self-giving on the Cross, Christ conquered violence. As priests we are called, in fellowship with Jesus Christ, to be men of peace, we are called to oppose violence and to trust in the greater power of love.
Oil strengthens us for battle, he said. “The battle of Christians consisted — and still consists — not in the use of violence, but in the fact that they were — and are — ready to suffer for the good, for God. It consists in the fact that Christians, as good citizens, keep the law and do what is just and good. It consists in the fact that they do not do whatever within the legal system in force is not just but unjust.
“Today too it is important for Christians to follow what is right, which is the foundation of peace,” he said. “Today too it is important for Christians to not accept a wrong that is enshrined in law — for example, the killing of innocent unborn children,” the pope said in his homily.