It was standing room only as priests, religious, deacons and laity from throughout the Phoenix Diocese packed into Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral for the this year’s Chrism Mass March 26. Members of the Knights of Columbus, Order of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre took part in the opening procession as the choir and congregation sang a spectacular eight verses of “Lift High the Cross.”
The annual liturgy draws a multi-generational crowd of Catholics to witness the bishop blessing the oils that will be used throughout the year in sacramental celebrations such as Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders.
The other big draw for the Mass is that priests of the diocese reaffirm their commitment to priestly service at the conclusion of the homily. “Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and other liturgical rites?” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted asked them, among other questions. The approximately 150 priests in attendance stood as one and answered in unison: “I am.”
Greg and Christina Blanchard drove from Flagstaff to participate in the Mass. For them, it was a bit of a family reunion. Their son, Nathan, a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio, served on the altar during the Mass; Greg is in formation for the diaconate. The Blanchard’s daughter, Sr. Rene Noel, teaches first grade at St. Thomas the Apostle School and was on hand with other sisters from her community, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
“It’s a taste of Easter because we don’t get to see her that often,” Greg said. “On these non-planned occasions, it’s a great joy. She takes final vows this summer.”
The blessing of the holy oils was powerful, Greg said, because “it calls to mind the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit in our Church throughout the centuries.”
During his bilingual homily, Bishop Olmsted reflected on the Gospel passage in which Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah from the scroll at the synagogue. St. Luke’s portrayal draws attention to Jesus’ hands, the bishop said.
“Before Jesus spoke a word in the synagogue, people noticed what He did with His hands and with what reverence He handled the scrolls,” Bishop Olmsted said. The oils blessed at the Chrism Mass will be taken into the priests’ hands to confer the sacraments, he said, and Jesus brings healing and life to others through the hands of priests.
The Chrism Mass is a worthwhile occasion, the bishop said, for priests to “remember that sacred moment, on the day of Ordination, when our hands were anointed by Christ, and when He, acting through the Bishop, placed His hands upon us and gave us a share in His eternal priesthood.”
Prayer of Abandonment
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures —
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Bishop Olmsted asked the priests to join with him silently as he prayed aloud the words written by Blessed Charles de Foucauld in the Prayer of Abandonment.
Calling them “my beloved priests and dear sons in Christ,” the bishop encouraged his brother priests to take heart, recalling that it is Jesus who laid His hands on them and uses their hands and voices to consecrate the bread and wine at Mass.
“If, at any time, we become disheartened, let us ask Him to take our hands and hearts in His, to heal and renew them for the service of His Kingdom,” Bishop Olmsted said.
Braxinton Campano, a young parishioner from St. Joan of Arc, stood outside with friends and family after the two-hour Mass. “It was really beautiful,” Campano said. “The Latin hymns gave me the most peace.”
Christina Strafacci, who teaches at the Kino Catechetical Institute, was also in attendance. “I love attending the Chrism Mass each year because the unity of the whole Church is on full display,” Strafacci said. “Listening to the priests renew their commitments and watching the bishop’s blessing of the sacramental oils — it’s all so incredibly beautiful.”