Celebrating the sacraments as a universal Church Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Apr. 16, 2009 -- 12:00 AM
  Chrism Mass 2009
 Bishop Robert C. Morlino distributes the sacred oils to priests and parish representatives from around the Diocese of Madison during the Chrism Mass April 7, held at St. Maria Goretti, Madison. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) For more photos click here.

MADISON — The events of Holy Week, particularly the Triduum — what Pope Benedict XVI called “the heart of the entire liturgical year” — offer Catholics an opportunity “to immerse themselves in the central events of our redemption,” the pope said during his weekly audience April 8.

Throughout the world, Catholics recalled the events of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection through the celebration of the Triduum. The liturgies in  this heart of the Church’s year focus on and commemorate the fundamentals of the Church and its sacraments.

Celebrating the Chrism Mass

At the Chrism Mass, celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week in the Diocese of Madison and on Holy Thursday in Rome, priests publicly renewed the vows they took at ordination and the bishop blessed the oils that will be used throughout the coming year for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.

In his message on Palm Sunday, April 5, Pope Benedict XVI had told the young people of the Church that true Christians are never sad, “even if they have to face trials of various kinds, because the presence of Jesus is the secret of their joy and peace.”

“Everybody’s hope should only be placed in Christ, not in anything in this world,” Bishop Robert C. Morlino said, echoing the pope’s statement in his homily at the diocesan Chrism Mass two days later. “And the world is learning that now. People who’ve placed their hope in this world are very disappointed right now. The things of this world are not the fitting objects of our hope.”

We see the fulfillment of our hope in Jesus Christ through the sacraments, Bishop Morlino said. “And that’s what we celebrate tonight. We celebrate all the concrete ways in which we see Jesus Christ.

“You and I are privileged to be ministers of that hope we find in Jesus Christ alone,” he said to the priests around him who only a few minutes later would renew their ordination promises. “The sacraments don’t have it without you and me, unworthy though we are. We are ministers of hope . . . and ministers of hope should never be sad. So let’s really get into it.”

Being united to Christ

At the Chrism Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the pope said that the priesthood of the disciples can only be a participation in the priesthood of Jesus, and that being priests is simply a new and radical way of being united to Christ.

“As Saint Paul said: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,’” the pope said. “In the words ‘I do,’ spoken at our priestly ordination, we made this fundamental renunciation of our desire to be independent, ‘self-made.’ 

“But day by day this great ‘yes’ has to be lived out in the many little ‘yeses’ and small sacrifices,” he said. “This ‘yes’ made up of tiny steps which together make up the great ‘yes,’ can be lived out without bitterness and self-pity only if Christ is truly the center of our lives.”

If we enter into true closeness with him, the pope said, “then indeed we experience, amid sacrifices which can at first be painful, the growing joy of friendship with him, and all the small and sometimes great signs of his love, which he is constantly showing us.”

After the blessing of the sacred oils, the pope donated a portion of them to the Archdiocese of L’Aquila, which was hit earlier in the week by an earthquake that killed nearly 300 people, injured more than 1,000, and left tens of thousands homeless.

Institution of the Eucharist

Later on Holy Thursday, parishes and dioceses around the world celebrated the Mass commemorating the institution of the Eucharist — “the supreme sign of Christ’s love for us,” the pope said in his Wednesday audience.

Breaking the bread, the Holy Father said in his homily at the Commemoration of the Lord’s Supper, “is the act of the father of the family who looks after his children and gives them what they need for life” as well as the act of hospitality with the guest.

Dividing and sharing brings about unity, and through sharing, communion is created, he said.

Through the breaking of the bread, the Lord distributes himself. “The nourishment that man needs in his deepest self is communion with God himself,” the pope said. “Giving thanks and praise, Jesus transforms the bread, he no longer gives earthly bread, but communion with himself.”

But the Eucharist can never be just a liturgical action, he said. “It is complete only if the liturgical agape then becomes love in daily life.”

Good Friday and the Easter Vigil

The Triduum continued with the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday. In many places around the world, this day also included the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, which follows the Passion narrative.

In Rome, the pope celebrated the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum, which, though radio and television coverage, brought many people together from every part of the world. The meditations, written by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India, focused this year on the plight of persecuted Christians in India and the oppressed peoples of Sudan and the Congo.

“The anguish of the Passion of the Lord Jesus cannot fail to move to pity even the most hardened hearts, as it constitutes the climax of the revelation of God’s love for each of us,” the pope said. “It is for love of us that Christ dies on the cross! Throughout the course of the millennia, a great multitude of men and women have been drawn deeply into this mystery and they have followed him, making in their turn, like him and with his help, a gift to others of their own lives.”

On Holy Saturday, Catholics watched and prayed as they continued the journey to the Resurrection. At the Easter Vigil Mass, which began after dusk in parishes around the diocese, the Easter fire was lit and hundreds were baptized, confirmed, and/or received into communion with the Church.

As many as 150,000 new or returning Catholics were expected to join the Catholic Church in 2009 in the United States, according to a news release by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. Many of them were received in parishes across the country at the Easter Vigil April 11.

For the complete texts of the pope’s homilies during Holy Week, go to For video and audio of the diocesan celebrations, visit files for download are available in the “Audio & Video” drop-down menu at the bottom of the page.

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