||Bishop Robert C. Morlino blesses the oil of the sick, oil of the catechumens, and sacred Chrism during the Chrism Mass on April 19 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Madison. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
MADISON -- On Tuesday of Holy Week, April 19, clergy, religious, and laity from around the diocese came to Madison to participate in the annual Chrism Mass at St. Maria Goretti Church.
The Mass, at which priests renew their vows and the oils for the sacraments are blessed, was an opportunity to celebrate those special gifts to the Church, Bishop Robert C. Morlino said. With an eye to the sleeting weather outside, he joked that we were celebrating Christmas in April.
The weather held back many people, particularly from the farther reaches of the 11 counties that make up the Diocese of Madison. Parishes which were not able to attend or send representatives were still able to receive the oils that will be used throughout the coming year in sacraments and several other Church rites.
Full of beauty
Despite the lower-than-usual turnout, the Mass was a celebration full of beauty, from the flowers and vestments of the ministers to the incense, music, and prayers offered during the liturgy. The Lord has given us the gifts to offer the Mass with beauty, Bishop Morlino said.
“The most beautiful thing, of course, in the Church,” he said, “is the faith in the hearts of all of us — which is made much more magnificent than it could be when it is offered up with our Eucharist in Christ’s name.”
The bishop recalled all of the priests and the two Madison bishops, Bishop William H. Bullock and Bishop George O. Wirz, who have died recently. These losses and the lonesomeness that attends them make a difference to our celebration — and yet on Palm Sunday we sang “Hosanna to the Highest Heaven,” as Christ made his way into Jerusalem, the bishop said.
This, as well as the events of Holy Week — from the sacred Chrism, the “oil of gladness” that was blessed at the Chrism Mass, to the crucifixion on Good Friday in which the veil in the temple was torn in two, opening the closure between heaven and earth — remind us of our final pilgrimage to heaven.
This theme, which the bishop frequently called “Destination: Heaven,” was repeated throughout his Holy Week homilies.
“We should live as though that is our destination,” the bishop said during the Chrism Mass. “Getting there is almost as good as being there. And that’s how we should live Holy Week and every day of our lives: with that joy of destination heaven, to which we are called.”
Full of gladness
During the Chrism Mass, the sacred Chrism was blessed along with the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick. These oils, which are used to anoint, are an important part of the Church’s tradition.
The sacred Chrism, in particular, which is used in of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick, is called the “oil of gladness” in the Scriptures, the bishop said. Many of the nearly 180 people who came forward earlier in Lent to be welcomed into the Church at Easter no doubt discovered that sometimes a priest or bishop likes to use a lot of the “oil of gladness” on people to soak them in that joy.
“But there is a point to such a soaking as a beautiful, visible sign that you are to be saturated with gladness, saturated with the joy of the Lord,” he said.
With the coming new translation of the Roman Missal, the new words will call us to a new attitude toward the sacred and help us to be reverent in prayer. It’s more than a change in language — after all, it’s still English, he said.
“That’s the Lord showing us right in 2011 the path of life through which we become filled with joy in the Lord’s presence,” the bishop said.
“We suffer loss at the death of our dear bishops and priests, but this is a year of great joy for the Diocese of Madison, because the Holy Spirit wants to transform us, with the rest of the whole Church, into a new quality of lifting up our hearts, of making sure, with God’s grace, that our lives are pointed clearly and definitely to destination heaven,” the bishop said.