The Chrism Mass: a Celebration of the Priesthood

Seven Sister: One holy hour/one priest/each week/one heart of prayer

Greetings dearest Seven Sisters...

"The priest is the minister who in turn becomes the dispenser of God's treasures.  These treasures are the fruits which have ripened on the tree of the Cross; they are the fruits of Christ's sacrifice." 
Rt Rev Dom Antoine Forgeot, OSB

In this Holy Week ahead, the recipients of our intercessions surely stand in need of extra measures of our sacrifices of prayers and the ensuing graces.  At his ordination, the Church tells the priest through the voice of the presiding bishop, "Know well what you are doing, imitate the sacrifice to which you hold the key at Mass; so that by celebrating the mystery of the death of the Lord, you will strive to mortify within your limbs all sorts of vices and evil desires."  As we weekly beseech the sanctity of the priest for whom we pray we do nothing less than reinforce this admonition of the bishop.  As servant and friend of Christ, the priest aspires greater intimacy with his Master.  He finds this in conforming to Christ's likeness: His Way and His Will.

These days of Holy Week afford distinctive graces for the priest whose call beckons him to uniquely and more intimately walk the Via Crucis with Christ, the High Priest.  Graces abound, and especially so in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.  The priests are offered much, but at the same time asked to give much.  This is the economy of the Kingdom.

The Chrism Mass is celebrated during the Lenten season, conferring special graces to the priests.  In Rome the Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday, the anniversary of the Institution of both Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders.  Elsewhere, the Mass, at the discretion of the local Ordinary, may be celebrated on Holy Thursday, during the week prior or earlier in the span of Holy Week.   The (Arch)bishop concelebrates with his college of presbyters, consecrates the holy chrism and other oils for sacramental use in the coming year, and dispenses them that evening to the priests.  At that special Liturgy, the priests also renew their commitment to Priestly service.  The (Arch)bishop asks the priests to stand and give witness to the renewal of their dedication to Christ through a life of sacrifice, devotion and love. 

Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred His priesthood on His Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God's holy people, the promises you once made?  (Response: I am)

Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ's Church which, prompted by love of Him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?  (Response: I am)

Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls? (Response: I am)

But the priests are not the only ones asked to make a commitment.  The (Arch)bishop then asks the congregation to pray for the priests.

As for you, dearest sons and daughters, pray for your Priests, that the Lord may pour out His gifts abundantly on them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest, so that they may lead you to Him, Who is the source of salvation.  (Response: Christ hear us, Christ graciously hear us)

The (Arch) bishop then asks all present to pray for him as he carries out the duties of his office.

And pray also for me, that I may be faithful to the apostolic office entrusted to me in my lowliness and that in your midst I may be made day by day a living and more perfect image of Christ, the Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and the Servant of all. (Response: Christ hear us, Christ graciously hear us)

This year there is the unique juxtaposition of Good Friday being on March 25 (Annunciation) - so both the conception of Jesus and death of Jesus are contemplated on the same day.  Indeed this is a rich, rich time to be praying for our priests and bishops.   Let us remain steadfast and faithful to our commitment of prayers for our brothers in Christ.

Therefore, even though Adoration Chapels will vary in open times during Holy Week, let us not slacken in our committed Hour of prayer for the priest.  Let us be open to creative ways in how this may express itself during our committed day this week.  Perhaps utilizing the Holy Week services at our parish to offer our prayers or time intentionally allotted in the quiet of our home may be a viable option.  It may be helpful to pre-plan this offering that may be different from what is routinely offered.   If you have a copy, let me suggest using the Magnificat Year for Priests Companion this week to pray the Via Crucis for Priests by Fr Mark Daniel Kirby (pg 96).  It is fitting and deep of heart and tone.  Above all, let us be assured that every sacrifice of prayer has merit!

A closing remark from a Homily (Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, 04/13/06) Pope Benedict XVI:

"The world needs God, not just any god, but the God of Jesus Christ, of the God who took the form of flesh and blood and loved us even to the point of dying for us.  The God who was resurrected and created within Himself a space for man.  This God must live in us and we in Him.  Such is our call as priests and it is only thus that our actions as priests can bring forth fruit."

Blessed Holy Week to you - live deeply in His Love...
United in prayer and mission -
that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest
... eternal gratitude as you remember to offer a wee Holy Mary for me each day....


Artist: Neilson Carlin

Recently I joined Seven Sisters in the Winona (MN) diocese.  What a JOY!

Anticipated Seven Sisters regional gathering: Dubuque, IA - April 2.  Your prayers welcomed!

Another Communique coming Holy Saturday for Feast of St Margaret Clitherow - stayed tuned!