By Liz Sullivan
The Diocese of San Jose celebrated a rite of Lent on March 15: the blessing of the oils during the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph.
During the Mass Bishop Patrick J. McGrath led priests in the blessing of the oils to be used by the diocese in the coming year.
“At last year’s Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis addressed priests in this way,” said the Bishop. “Let us return for a moment to what today’s liturgy describes as the work of the priest: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to prisoners and healing to the blind, to offer liberation to the downtrodden and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor. Isaiah also mentions consoling the broken-hearted and comforting the afflicted.
“These are not easy or purely mechanical jobs, like running an office, building a parish hall or laying out a soccer field for the young of the parish… The tasks of which Jesus speaks call for the ability to show compassion; our hearts are to be ‘moved’ and fully engaged in carrying them out. We are to rejoice with couples who marry; we are to laugh with the children brought to the baptismal font; we are to accompany young fiancés and families; we are to suffer with those who receive the anointing of the sick in their hospital beds; we are to mourn with those burying a loved one…”
During the Mass, the Bishop blessed three oils – the oil of catechumens, the oil of the infirm, and the holy chrism, which will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese’s 54 parishes. This tradition is noted in the early Church as found in the Gelasian Sacramentary (named after Pope Gelasius I, d. 496) but was later absorbed into the Holy Thursday evening Mass. Pope Pius XII issued a new order for Holy Week, which reinstituted a special Mass of the Chrism, distinct from the evening Mass.
“The oils we will bless and consecrate embody the Lord’s tender caress of those who will share in every sacramental anointing throughout this local Church until the next time we celebrate this annual Mass,” said the Bishop. “Each catechumen, every newly baptized infant and adult, all who will be confirmed, each new priest, all are likewise touched by Christ in a holy anointing. And the ill, the frail and the dying are commended to the healing embrace of the Lord as they, too, are anointed in the Lord’s love and mercy.”
Reflecting the population of the diocese, the Mass was celebrated in three languages: English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
In addition to the blessing of the oils, the numerous priests who were in attendance renewed the promises they took at their ordination. The Diocese also welcomed a new priest to its presbyterate; Father John Doanh Phong Nguyen, S.J., from the California Province of the Society of Jesus was accepted into permanent ministry as a priest of the Diocese of San Jose.
Bishop McGrath also acknowledged seven priests celebrating their 25th anniversary of priestly ordination: Father Bob Kiefer, Father Francisco Miramontes, Father Jon Pedigo, Monsignor Francisco Rios, Father Rick Rodoni, Father Matt Stanley, and Father Lien Vu as well as Monsignor John Sandersfeld who is marking 50 years of ordination..