With a prayer and a gentle blow over a silver urn, Archbishop Samuel Aquila asked that each drop of the chrism oil inside will inflame a burning love for Christ in the hearts of all those it touches.
“Let us pray that God, almighty Father, will bless this oil so that all who are anointed with it may inwardly be transformed and come to share in eternal salvation,” he prayed before a crowd inside the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception downtown.
After bringing the Holy Spirit and God’s blessing into the urns of oil, the 150-some onlooking priests took portions of the holy oil to their parishes to anoint of the heads of those being baptized, confirmed or ordained.
The Cathedral Basilica pews were filled with clergy, seminarians, religious, students and other faithful April 15 to celebrate the annual Chrism Mass with the archbishop this year.
The archbishop consecrated the sacred chrism, used for baptism, confirmation and the ordination of priests and bishops; and he blessed the oil of catechumens, which is also used in baptism; and the oil of the infirmandi, which is used to anoint the ill.
He said the oil will bring the baptized to a deeper understanding of the Gospel and help them accept the challenge of Christian living. He prayed that it will wash away the evil faithful inherited and make them co-heirs in eternal life.
In his homily, Archbishop Aquila said that each person anointed with the holy oil is called to give witness to Christ through a total gift of self.
“The important thing is that our hearts be on fire for the Holy Spirit, that we truly desire the Holy Spirit and pray for his grace,” he said. “If we are to be leaven in the world, if we are to transform the world, we cannot live double lives. No Catholic can. But everyone must be on fire with the zeal of the Spirit.”
At the end of his homily, the archbishop asked the priests in attendance, dressed in white and cream stoles, to renew their commitment to the priesthood as they did on the day of their ordination.
“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, following Christ the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal of souls?”
They responded, “I am.”
The archbishop shared his desires and prayers with his brother priests.
“My beloved brothers, my deepest prayer for you is that you will be more conformed to Christ each day, that you and I may die to ourselves so that Christ may live within us,” he told the priests during Mass.
Jubilarians a joy
In addressing his brother priests, Archbishop Aquila gave special recognition to the jubilarians celebrating 60, 50, 40 and 25-years of service to the priesthood.
Each one was announced and a brief biography given before the congregation applauded their ministry.
He called their years of service a tremendous joy to him.
“I thank you for your witness and great ministry,” the archbishop told the priests who sat with him in the sanctuary. “Please be assured of my prayers and gratitude.”
He pointed to the jubilarians as examples of seeking the will of God, which brings the most joy in life, he said.
“Let us pray we will be his faithful witnesses each day,” Archbishop Aquila said. “In closing, my deepest desire, my deepest longing, my only vision is that all of us come to know the love of the Father in a personal way.”
Priests celebrating jubilees in 2014
60 years: Father Thomas Dowd, Father Daniel Flaherty, Father Jan Mucha and Father James Purfield.
50 years: Father Michael Kerrigan, Dominican Father John McGreevey, Father John Schlaf and Jesuit Father John Waters
40 years: Father William Breslin, Father Thomas Coyte, Father James Fox, V.F., Capuchin Franciscan Father Christopher Popravak and Msgr. Bernard Schmitz
25 years: Oblate of the Virgin Mary Father Dennis Brown, Father Tadeusz Kopczynski and Redemptorist Father John Schmidt