HARTFORD – United as brothers in Christ, more than 100 priests of the Archdiocese of Hartford walked in a procession into the Cathedral of St. Joseph on March 22 to renew their priestly commitment and to witness the blessing and consecration of the holy oils at the Chrism Mass.
The Chrism Mass is concelebrated each year during Holy Week, the week that Christ instituted the priesthood. The holy oils are used in the administration of the sacraments in the coming year.
This year, the priests were joined by three archbishops and two bishops, the seminarians, numerous deacons, many lay ministers and children from St. Paul School in Kensington. Before the Mass, all were treated to a prelude of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” on the cathedral’s majestic 8,000 pipe organ.
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair welcomed all in attendance and delivered the homily. He explained that all priests were called to join him in the consecration of the chrism because “they share in the sacred office of the bishop in building up, sanctifying and shepherding the people of God.”
Reiterating his remarks at recent Archbishop’s Annual Appeal dinners, the archbishop said, “Jesus fulfilled the Messianic promise of a kingdom, but a kingdom – as he will tell Pontius Pilate – that is not of this world.” Then the archbishop posed the question, “What did Jesus actually bring?”
“The answer is simple. As Pope Benedict said, Jesus brought God. Now we know his face and now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny – faith, hope and love,” Archbishop Blair said.
“We must also acknowledge what Jesus did not bring. He did not and does not bring world peace. We see all around us the great tragedy of hostility and violence, and now in Belgium with the very tragic murder of so many people in a terrorist act. He did not bring universal prosperity. We know today how much the world suffers from poverty. And he did not, of himself, bring a better material world.
“The kingdom is a work of God, and its coming is something we pray for every day in the Lord’s Prayer,” the archbishop said.
Still, he said, there is much the people of God can do.
“Above all, the greatest Christian service you can show another person is to bring him or her to full participation in the life of Christ’s body, the church,” he said. “We are witnesses to the kingdom of God, without whom the world cannot exist. We are witnesses to Christ’s body, the church, and witnesses to eternal life.”
Mother Teresa reminded us that in many areas of the world, poverty is often more spiritual than material, and that many people are hungry for Christ, Archbishop Blair said.
“Spiritual poverty consists of loneliness, discouragement and a lack of meaning in life,” he added, quoting Mother Teresa. “And surely we can say that our society today is stricken with those symptoms of a spiritual poverty to which we are called to respond by the grace and goodness and commission of Christ.”
Everyone can play a role in reducing that spiritual poverty by fostering a living faith in God, in his goodness and his truth, the archbishop said.
“We accomplish this not by force, not by compulsion, not by waving a Bible or a catechism in somebody’s face, or by lecturing them, but by personal invitation and by what Pope Francis calls ‘our witness to the joy of the Gospel’ – our own good example of a virtuous and a loving life,” he said.
“This is precisely the service of evangelization that is so urgent today, one that fulfills our mission as the anointed members of the body of Christ,” the archbishop said.
The works of mercy are essential to this mission.
“The Jubilee Year of Mercy teaches us that our mission consists not only in the corporal works of mercy but the spiritual works of mercy that are often neglected when we speak of Christian service,” he said. These include comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries and praying for the living and the dead.
“The remaining three deserve special comment because they are so challenging to us in today’s world,” Archbishop Blair said.
“This first is converting sinners – doing what we can, lovingly but also courageously challenging people and helping them to turn away from falsehood or moral evil. Secondly, instructing the ignorant, so that they know what our Catholic faith believes and teaches from Scripture and tradition. And then, advising the doubtful – encouraging people to hold fast to faith and morals when they are assaulted by uncertainty and temptation.”
After the homily, all of the priests rose to renew their commitment to priestly service. They resolved to renew their promises, to be more united with and conformed to Jesus, to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the holy Eucharist and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching.
Archbishop Blair then blessed the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumens and consecrated the Oil of Chrism.
The Oil of the Sick is used to anoint those who are ill, the Oil of Catechumens is used to anoint those preparing for baptism, and the perfumed Oil of Chrism is reserved for baptisms, confirmations, and the ordination of priests.
Archbishop Blair concluded the Mass by congratulating the jubilarian priests for their many years of service, ranging from 25 to 65 years. He also addressed the school-children present, saying, “I hope in seeing these jubilarians, you might consider that God may call you to the consecrated life.”
Following the Mass, the holy oils were distributed to the priests and their designates for use in their parishes and institutions. The oils were used as soon as the Easter Vigil to anoint catechumens being received into the Catholic Church.