HARTFORD – Reconciliation, peace and anger control were themes Archbishop Leonard P. Blair addressed in his homily during the annual Chrism Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral March 31.
Celebrated each year during Holy Week, the Chrism Mass is an occasion when the archbishop blesses or consecrates oils to be used in the upcoming year during the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the ordinations of priests, as well as for the consecrations of altars and churches. It is also an occasion during which priests of the archdiocese renew their commitment to priestly service.
The archbishop said that a priest needs holiness in order to discern the signs of the times and to be an effective instrument in the divine work of salvation.
“I needn’t tell you that the world today stands in dire need of reconciliation and peace, in dire need of that soothing ointment of the Holy Spirit that flows from Christ to us,” he said. “Humanity’s brief conflicts are like open wounds that confront us daily with human suffering, misery, martyrdom, hatred and death.”
Peace begins with each one of us, he said.
He referred to Peter Wood’s book A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now, which says that anger used to be an emotion we were expected to keep under control. “Now, outbursts of anger in our country are actually applauded as a way of showing one’s authenticity,” he said. “Restraint is out, and wrath is in.”
The First Letter of Peter reminds us that Jesus did not return anger for anger. “When he suffered, he did not struggle, but he trusted in him who judges justly,” the archbishop said.
Forgiveness and peace are essential elements of the sacrament of reconciliation, the greatest service a priest can render, he said. “We remember that the priest is a man ordained to absolve in the name of Christ himself, in the very person of Jesus Christ,” he said.
“I once had a conversation with a psychologist about how much anger there is in people today,” he said. “‘Bishop,’ he said, ‘what do you expect when so few people go to confession?’”
He said there can be no peace anywhere “without renouncing anger and embracing the healing and sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit, poured out to the world through the church, poured out in the sacramental oils that in a moment I will consecrate.”
He concluded, “Today as we leave this cathedral after this beautiful Chrism Mass, let us make a simple prayer our own: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
The archbishop then blessed two types of oils – the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens – and consecrated the Holy Chrism. The Oil of the Sick is used by priests to administer the sacrament of anointing the sick. The Oil of the Catechumens is used to give a person wisdom and strength before receiving the sacrament of baptism.
Deacons then carried the vessels containing the oils to the lower cathedral, where members of the archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women transferred the oils to vials for distribution to each parish.
Scores of priests from all corners of the archdiocese concelebrated the Mass, during which they renewed their commitment to priestly service. The archbishop asked them if they were resolved to renew their promises, to be more united with the Lord Jesus, to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God and to faithfully discharge the sacred office of teaching. To each question, they responded, “I am.”
About 200 Catholic school students from several schools attended the Mass, including 53 students from St. Mary Magdalen School in Oakville. Thomas Maynard, principal, said it was important for the students to witness the priests’ renewing their commitment.
“It’s a perfect example of modeling and it brings it home to them, the commitment of each of the priests to their [promises],” he said.
Mr. Maynard was impressed with the wide range in ages of the concelebrating priests, some of whom were newly ordained and others celebrating 25, 50, 55, 60, even 70 years in the priesthood.
“It says to the young people that this is something very important,” Mr. Maynard said.