By Liz Sullivan
As the days drew closer to Easter, the Diocese of San Jose celebrated a rite of Lent with the blessing of the oils during the Chrism Mass on April 4 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph.
Bishop Patrick J. McGrath led priests during the Mass in the blessing of the oils to be used by the diocese in the coming year.
The three oils – the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and Sacred Chrism, 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.
“We will bless and consecrate these holy oils, knowing that on this very night they will be carried to every corner of this Diocese, uniting us and our prayer this evening to countless celebrations of the sacraments in the year ahead,” said the Bishop during the homily. “You and I, through what we do this evening, are, in some way, present to every anointing of an infant or adult and of the ill and aged that these holy oils make possible. Sacraments are prayers of the whole Church; as such, the sacraments that will be celebrated by the means of these oils are an extension of our liturgy tonight.”
Reflecting the population of the diocese, the Mass was celebrated in three languages: English, Spanish and Vietnamese. At the conclusion of the Mass, to honor these traditions a Mariachi band played, along with a performance by the San Jose Igbo Catholic Community Choir.
In addition to the blessing of the oils, the numerous priests who were in attendance renewed the promises they made at their ordination. The Diocese also welcomed Father Andrey Garcia from the Institute of the Incarnate Word and Father James Okafor from the Diocese of Awka in Nigeria into its presbyterate as priests of the Diocese of San Jose. Father Garcia is Parochial Vicar at Saint John Vianney Church and Father Okafor is Chaplain at Archbishop Mitty High School.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the Bishop presented Diana Macalintal, the Director of Worship, the Benedictus Award as she concluded her 15 years of service to the Diocese. The award takes its name from the Gospel Canticle of Zachary, The Benedictus, which in Latin simply means, “Blessed be God.” The Award can be given in three areas: Liturgical Education, Liturgical Music and Liturgical Arts.
“We wanted to honor Diana for her service to the church, to me and to the mission of the Diocese of San Jose,” said the Bishop.
“By presenting you with the Benedictus Award, Diana, it is showing our appreciation in some small way for the great service you have given to me and the Diocese. We have been truly blessed. Thank you.”
Chrism Mass Homily by Bishop Patrick J. McGrath
We are the Lord’s anointed.
What a bold statement, but truly we are.
Whether by virtue of Baptism, Confirmation or Holy Orders or the anointing of Catechumens prior to Baptism, each of us gathered here in our cathedral Church is the Lord’s anointed.
As such, we are set apart as disciples: more than followers, we walk with the Lord wherever he leads us. There is purpose to our journey for we do not wander aimlessly. We are not sheep without a shepherd, but a holy flock entrusted to the care of the Good Shepherd.
Tonight we bless and consecrate the oils and Chrism that mark us along the various stages of our lives in and for Christ.
Catechumens are anointed “with the Oil of Salvation” to strengthen them on their path to initiation and the Easter Sacraments. Like wrestlers, they struggle against temptation and evil, and we pray that the Lord may endow them with his power. This is the oil of strength.
Newly-baptized infants are anointed with Sacred Chrism, as a foretaste of the sacrament of Confirmation that they will receive at a later time.
In Confirmation, the anointing with Chrism is accompanied by the words, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” In this way, the believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, so that the gifts of the Spirit may be alive and active in the life of the Christian. Sacred Chrism is the Oil of the Spirit.
In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the Church prays with and for those whose health is impaired by chronic or acute illness and the weakening that accompanies old age. We pray that “the Lord in his love and mercy [may] help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. . .May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” The Oil of the Sick is the oil of consolation, the oil of hope.
Sacred Chrism is used again in the Ordination of Priests and Bishops, to indicate and to effect in each of them a special grace by which they share in the role of Shepherd, leading and serving. Whether anointed on the palms of the hands, as in the case of priestly ordination, or on a new bishop’s head, the anointing with Chrism marks the priest and bishop as consecrated in a special way to a life of public service in the Church.
At the Chrism Mass, priests are given the opportunity to renew the promises of Ordination. Each of us recalls in the midst of this sacred assembly the reasons we first embraced the Lord’s call to us. At the same time, we attempt to recapture our original fervor and the idealism which was ours at the beginning of our ministry.
My brothers, we all began our ministry with the promises of dedication to the Lord and of dedication in service to His people. For the most part, we have remained faithful, even as realism has replaced our idealism.
For those among us who were ordained in the 1950s, ‘60s, or ‘70s, much has changed in our Church and our world. Some remember the image of the priest, portrayed by Bing Crosby in “Going My Way.” And you know, I hope, that that world does not exist in the twenty-first century. But you do, and so does the vital ministry to which you continue to be called and for which each and every day you renew yourself in your commitment to serve.
Many of you, my younger brothers, were not even born when those older men were ordained. Be kind to them, even as you journey in the Lord to discover the path of priestly ministry in a contemporary world and Church. It is likely that you never heard of Bing Crosby or “Going My Way.” And there is nothing wrong with that!
The challenges facing modern families and individuals are very different from the mid-twentieth century, but it is also good to know the context in which our older priests matured, just as they need to understand the cultural and societal influences that have formed you into the men that you are.
The Second Vatican Council, now more than 50 years past, was such a momentous event in the history of the Church, that even now we continue to implement its teachings, its attitudes, and its revolutionary opening to the world. As Pope Francis reminds us often, there is no turning back, only moving forward. And this can be confusing because, while doctrine remain the same, the way those teachings are applied to the life of Christians can be most challenging. Take, as one example, the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. We cannot ignore the questions and the pastoral solutions the Holy Father sets before us. We must enter the dialogue of encounter and accompaniment with our parishioners. We must put before them the solutions and remedies that were not always available to us in the past. I realize that this is complicated, but is there anything in life that is not?
My brothers, I encourage you in the strongest way I can – never lose sight of the good intentions of those who come to you in their struggles. Like the Lord, the Anointed One, be rich in mercy, in love and in compassion.
And to all who are gathered here this evening – those who share the dignity of Baptism and the Elect who will soon approach the Waters of New Life – I ask you to pray for your priests, work with them, accompany them as they minister to the people entrusted to our care. As many of their most trusted co-workers, help them to be the very best priests that they can; God willing, they also aid you in being strong and loving in your ministry among the People of God.
In a short while, we will bless and consecrate these holy oils, knowing that on this very night they will be carried to every corner of this Diocese, uniting us and our prayer this evening to countless celebrations of the sacraments in the year ahead. You and I, through what we do this evening, are, in some way, present to every anointing of an infant or adult and of the ill and aged that these holy oils make possible. Sacraments are prayers of the whole Church; as such, the sacraments that will be celebrated by the means of these oils are an extension of our liturgy tonight.
I ask you to join me now in praying to the Lord for our priests who will renew the promises of ordination, and in praying that the Lord will endow our holy oils and Sacred Chrism with his very life and breath. To him be all glory and praise, now and forever.