[dropcap type=”4″]I[/dropcap]n a tradition dating back to the early Church, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix gathered March 30 with his brother priests to bless the oils that will be used in sacraments during the coming year.

More than 130 priests along with 60 deacons, members of assorted religious orders and laity from all over the diocese packed into Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral for the two-hour solemn celebration of the Chrism Mass.

Since ancient times, the oils used in sacraments are blessed at the Chrism Mass. The Oil of Catechumens, used in baptism, as well as the Oil of the Sick, used in anointing those who are seriously ill, are blessed along with the Holy Chrism for baptism, confirmation and holy orders.

Bishop Olmsted zeroed in on the reality of spiritual warfare during his homily. “Exorcism was an indispensable part of Jesus’ mission from the Father,” Bishop Olmsted said. “As spiritual fathers, which we become through our priestly ordination, we have the honor and the grave duty to prepare our people for spiritual warfare, to ready them for the opposition between ‘the spirit of the world and the Spirit that is from God.’”

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After the homily, priests stood to renew their promises as Bishop Olmsted asked: “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?” The priests spoke in unison: “I am.”

Fr. John Muir, assistant director of the office of worship and pastor of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Anthem, said the Mass was an occasion for joy and a reminder of his ordination to the priesthood eight years ago.

“It’s like the blessing of a wedding anniversary,” Fr. Muir said. “This is the time when the priests get to renew the promises that we made on our ordination day to love Christ and to love His Church.”

John Nahrgang, a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum, was elated to attend the Mass along with a contingent of his brother seminarians.

“It’s a time of excitement and it’s a time of anticipation too because as seminarians, we can’t help but picture ourselves with that group one day,” Nahrgang said. “On a day when priests are honored in such a profound way and you can see the communion with the bishop, we’re just excited to be a part of that and in an even deeper way, one day as future priests.”

Near the end of the Mass, Bishop Olmsted stood at the table in front of the altar of the cathedral. He chanted words that illuminated the meaning and history of the sacred oils, then breathed on them, invoking the Holy Spirit.

The bilingual Mass featured the choirs of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish as well as Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.