Sacred oil meant to inflame hearts

Priest renew fervor for ministry during Chrism Mass

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.”

Fervor renewed
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

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.