The huge altar space at St. Matthew Cathedral overflowed with priests: diocesan, Holy Cross, Jesuits and Melikite Eastern Rite, all concelebrating the Chrism Mass Monday, March 26, with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. The pews were packed, filled with the faithful of all ages, Knights of Columbus, members of the Order of Malta, and members of several religious orders. The sight was a reminder of the fullness and fruitfulness of Catholics within the diocese.
On Monday and also Tuesday of Holy Week — in Fort Wayne — Bishop Rhoades celebrated the bilingual Chrism Masses that proclaimed Jesus “as the Christ, the anointed one.” The focus of the Chrism Mass is two-fold: first, to bless or consecrate the holy oils and distribute them to local parishes, and secondly, for priests to renew their priestly promises in communion with the bishop.
The three oils are used throughout the year to anoint those receiving or preparing to receive a sacrament. Sacred Chrism, which is olive oil mixed with balsam, has a pleasant aroma and is used during baptism, confirmation and holy orders. Bishop Rhoades reminded the faithful “these three sacraments can only be received once, since their effect is permanent.”
“In all these sacraments, there is an outpouring of God’s grace, a special configuration to Christ, and a strengthening for the Christian mission in the world,” the bishop said.
The oil of catechumens is used prior to baptism. The oil of the sick was also blessed at the Chrism Mass, and is used to anoint the sick and dying.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades taught about anointings and about the three holy oils. The first part of the homily was directed to all the faithful gathered, and the second part was addressed to his fellow priests.
During the latter, he lovingly reminded his brothers in Christ, “Together with preaching the word of God, there is nothing greater that we can do for our people than bring them the grace of God in the sacraments. We are true shepherds of Christ when we anoint our people with the holy oils, when we do so not in a mechanical way, but with love and prayerful devotion. We should never downplay the importance of our sacramental ministry or consider it as secondary.
“I suggest thinking about our sacramental ministry this way,” he continued: “The Lord whom we have been ordained to serve came to give us life. He did so by His death and resurrection. It is by the sacraments that His life is communicated. That’s why our sacramental ministry is so important: The sacraments confer God’s grace. Of course, the most important service we perform for our people is the daily celebration of the Eucharist for them. The most effective service we can provide to the sick is to anoint them. The greatest relief we can give to a burdened soul is something no one else can give: the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of penance. And there is nothing better and more joyful for a family than to baptize their babies. My brother priests, our hands were anointed to do these things. We must believe in the power of the sacraments!”
Bishop Rhoades held up the holy example of Blessed Solanus Casey, a Capuchin simplex priest, as “an effective priest because he was a man of deep prayer and devotion, totally dedicated to the people whom he served.
“This holy priest said: ‘I have two loves, the sick and the poor!’ Blessed Solanus Casey is an example for all of us of the Church’s preferential option for the poor and the suffering.”
He encouraged all the faithful “to bear witness to His redemption” and “to live the anointing we have received” during Holy Week.
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