In a tradition dating back to the early Church, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted gathered with priests from throughout the Diocese of Phoenix at the annual Chrism Mass April 14 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.
Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares and retired Bishop Thomas O’Brien also took part in the liturgy.
It was standing room only in the packed cathedral as a long line of priests, deacons and bishops made their way in a long procession into the sanctuary. The Knights of Columbus, Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Knights and Dames of Malta, all in full regalia, accompanied the clergy in procession.
Addressing the crowd in Spanish and English, Bishop Olmsted spoke of the call to the ministerial priesthood and the importance of the annual Chrism Mass.
“The Chrism Mass manifests more than any other moment in the history of the diocese, the communion between the priests and the bishop, the bond of love that unites us with God and with one another,” Bishop Olmsted said. “This communion is not something we produce — it is a gift of God that comes at the moment of ordination.”
This bond of communion, Bishop Olmsted said, is renewed at the Chrism Mass each year when the priests once again profess the promises they first made on their ordination day.
Priestly communion extends beyond the boundaries of the diocese and also encompasses the bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, Bishop Olmsted said.
“As we gather tonight at the Chrism Mass, all of us gladly renew our filial loyalty to Pope Francis and promise him our prayers. This is not hard to do as we have been deeply moved by the Gospel witness of our Holy Father,” Bishop Olmsted said.
The priests in attendance rose in unison as Bishop Olmsted asked them a series of questions.
“Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching?” he asked them. They spoke as one: “I am.”
Bishop Olmsted also addressed the hundreds of lay people present for the Mass.
“Pray for your priests, that the Lord may pour out His gifts abundantly upon them and keep them faithful ministers of Christ the High Priest so that they may lead you to Him, the source of salvation,” Bishop Olmsted said.
Three containers of oil were brought forth for Bishop Olmsted to bless.
“Let us pray that God will bless this oil, so that all who are anointed with it may be inwardly transformed and come to share in eternal salvation,” the bishop prayed.
He thanked all of the religious consecrated men and women who attended for their “faithful witness to the Gospel,” and the deacons “who are so faithful in serving and fulfill such a vital role of service in the Church.”
For Mike Schroeder of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Chandler, part of the diaconate cohort for 2018, it was the first time he had ever set foot in the cathedral.
“It was a great opportunity to watch all the priests renew their vows,” Shroeder said. “That was just incredible. It was amazing.”
Elisa Tschupin, one of the many Spanish-speaking faithful in attendance, had never been to a Chrism Mass before. She said it was a touching experience to see the large number of clergy.
“I was deeply moved by seeing the priests renew their vows,” Tschupin said. “They are the representatives of Christ here on earth and I’m very happy to have come tonight.”
Jim Pompe of St. Thomas More Parish in Glendale said he’s attended many Chrism Masses over the years.
“The reason I come is I want to see all the clergy. It’s just so special to see them all together like that,” Pompe said. “You’ve got the Easter Vigil and you’ve got this and to me they’re the most powerful liturgies that we have.”
Since the early Church, bishops have blessed oil prior to the Triduum so fresh chrism could be used to baptize catechumens at the Easter Vigil. The tradition grew to include all oils used in Church ministry.