By Tim Johnson
SOUTH BEND — The faithful filled the cathedrals in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the Chrism Masses.
Some of the Church’s most ancient traditions and rituals are witnessed during Holy Week, including the preparation, blessing and distribution of oils central to the Catholic Church’s sacraments and rites. These holy oils are prepared and distributed to churches at the Chrism Mass.
The South Bend Mass was celebrated Monday, March 30, at St. Matthew Cathedral, and the Fort Wayne Mass was Tuesday, March 31, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
“Grace and strength! God’s grace and strength! That is what I think about at this Chrism Mass when I bless the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick and when I consecrate the sacred chrism,” Bishop Rhoades noted as he began his homily.
Virgin olive oil is used for the oil of the sick and oil of catechumens. To make the oil for the sacred chrism, it is mixed with a resin, balsam, giving it a sweet perfumed fragrance.
Explaining the uses of the oils, Bishop Rhoades said, “I think of the grace and strength that God, in His love, communicates to those who will be anointed with these holy oils.”
“Let us pray for all the adults and infants who, before they are baptized, will be anointed with the oil of catechumens,” he noted. “Let us pray for all the sick and the dying who will be spiritually strengthened through the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Let us pray for the beautiful babies who, after they are baptized, will be anointed on the crown of their heads with the chrism of salvation. Let us pray for the adults and many young teenagers who will be sealed with the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation through the anointing with the holy chrism. And let us pray for the young men whose hands will be anointed at their priestly ordination with the chrism that will be consecrated at this Mass.”
The Chrism Mass is also a sign of the unity and communion of the priests with their bishop. After the homily, the renewal of priestly promises took place in which the priests who were gathered publicly recommitted themselves to serving Christ’s Church through their selfless presbyteral ministry, and particularly through the faithful celebration of the liturgy and through the office of teaching.
Immediately after the renewal of promises of the priests, the various oils and the gifts of bread and wine were brought forward by over a dozen individuals, all of whom represented some element of service and activity in the local Church. They included representatives of religious orders, people in the healthcare field, teachers and students from the Catholic high schools.
Having received these items, Bishop Rhoades blessed the oil of the sick and oil of catechumens, and then mixed in the balsam before consecrating the sacred chrism.
In the homily, Bishop Rhoades related to the priests that Pope Francis says, “For bishops and priests, this anointing is their strength and their joy.”
“My brothers in the Priesthood, you know this is true,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Without Christ, we are weak; apart from Him, we can do nothing. We know this from our experience of messing up sometimes, by our sins and mistakes.”
“Through our anointing, we receive the strength to lead our people forward, like King David did, to help them and to live at their service,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The Lord and His anointing are our strength and also our joy. The Lord’s hand is always with us. His arm makes us strong. His faithfulness and mercy are with us.”
To the lay and religious brothers and sisters, Bishop Rhoades said, “Our priests and I need your prayers and loving support just as you need us to lead you and serve you according to the heart of Christ.”
“We need good, holy, and faithful bishops and priests,” Bishop Rhoades added. “That’s why we need your prayers. That’s why we need to renew our promises every year. That’s why, my brother priests, we need not only to pray each day, but also to go to Confession regularly. We need to pray like King David did: ‘Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness … cleanse me from my sin. … A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.’”
The diocese and the parishes grow, Bishop Rhoades said, “when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit who has anointed us to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.”
“The Church grows and flourishes only by God’s grace, by His anointing, and by the reception of that grace and anointing in those who answer the call to holiness,” Bishop Rhoades said. “I think today of the many holy bishops and priests of the Church who dedicated their entire lives to the service of their people. In the news, we usually only hear about the sins of priests and bishops for which we must repent. But let’s not forget the great number, mostly anonymous, who by their anointing gave their people strength, taught them the Gospel by their words and example, and administered the sacraments to them. How many good and faithful bishops and priests! They don’t make the news. We thank God for them and their anointing.”
In a final word to the priests, Bishop Rhoades said, “We didn’t become priests to exalt ourselves, to get ahead, or to become famous. We’re reminded of this on Holy Thursday in the ceremony of the washing of the feet. That’s our life and ministry: the humble service of Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re anointed to do. We exist for others and for Christ. I pray that our union with Christ becomes ever deeper, so that through us Christ the Good Shepherd will tend and care for His flock.”
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