Enjoy the February edition of the West River Catholic!
by Becky Berreth
“The church is at its most complete when it gathers with the bishop, priests, deacons, and the faithful. When everybody joins together this is who we are,” explained Father Michel Mulloy, rector at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “It is very rare for the church to come together for a full celebration. The Chrism Mass is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the gift of the diocesan church.”
On April 3, at 7.p.m., Bishop Robert Gruss, joined by the priests of the diocese, will celebrate the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help — a celebration that includes the blessing of oils and the renewing of priestly promises. Everyone in the diocese is invited to attend.
Following the homily, Bishop Gruss will bless the three oils that will be used in sacraments in the diocese during the coming year. According to Fr. Mulloy, the first two oils — the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumen — consist of olive oil and are blessed in the same way holy water is blessed. The Oil of the Sick is used in anointing the head and hands of those who are seriously and chronically ill to give them spiritual strength to fight in their weakened condition. The Oil of the Catechumens is used in the sacrament of baptism, meant to provide strength for discipleship.
The third oil — the Sacred Chrism — is olive oil mixed with balsam and is consecrated by the bishop during this liturgy. The bishop also breathes on the oil, which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
“When someone is anointed with the Sacred Chrism they become one with Christ,” explained Fr. Mulloy. It is used in baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and the dedication and blessing of churches and altars.
The Chrism Mass is also a time for the priests, in the presence of the bishop and the faithful, to renew their commitment to the ministry to which they were ordained. Similar to the renewal of wedding vows in front of family members, the priests are asked to repeat the promises taken at their ordination in the presence of the Catholic faithful.
“Our vocation is a marriage to Christ and to the church. It is important to any priest to have the faithful there to bear witness, to have the people’s support and encouragement in our ministry,” explained Fr. Mulloy. “The bishop at one point says ‘as for you dear sons and daughters pray for your priests.’ It is important for the priests there to know they have those prayers.”
The Chrism Mass is often celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, but because of the size of the diocese and the distances priests need to travel to be in attendance, it is celebrated in conjunction with Pastoral Ministry Days, April 3-4 (Click here to register for PMD 2017). “Holy Week is a summation of who we are and what we are about,” Fr. Mulloy added. “The Chrism Mass is tied to the Easter triduum not only because the oils are used in the sacraments, but it’s also the gathering of the church as a whole community. It is the church at its finest.”
As (Jesus) drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Lk 19:41-42).
These words make very real the heart of the season we are now entering. The words of Jesus can be very poignant as we pause for a moment and take in a glimpse of the world around us. What does Jesus see that would make him weep today? To name a few — a nation and culture which rejects God; violence of all kinds, often times in the name of religion; the great diminishment of the value of human life; the degradation of marriage in the culture
attempting to redefine it; a contraceptive culture; the great decline of traditional moral values; the millions of people who have rejected or walked away from the Catholic faith; and in so many ways, an indifference to religion and faith altogether. The list can go on. Ultimately Jesus weeps because, like during his time two thousand years ago, people of today have given up seeking a life of holiness.
Jesus wept over the tragedy of a lost opportunity. The people of the holy city of Jerusalem missed the opportunity to be saved because of their foolish decisions and their indifference. Their Savior came to their city, but they would not believe him nor accept him and all he was offering them. Today the time in history may be different, but is the attitude any different?
This is why each year the church, in this season of Lent, offers her people the opportunity to return to the Lord with our whole heart in a very intentional and deliberate way. This “Season of Grace” speaks to how much God favors us among all his creatures. As throughout all of human history, God tenderly seeks us out, invites us and gently admonishes us, all the while patiently awaiting our return to him wholeheartedly. He continually invites us into a close friendship — one like no other. In fact, Jesus literally “thirsts” for us.
This was the message given to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The meaning of the words which Jesus spoke from the cross, “I thirst,” was revealed to Mother Teresa in September 1946, a message which was meant to be shared with the world. In a book written by Fr. Joseph Langford, M.C, he says, “Mother Teresa’s understanding of the thirst of God was entirely simple, yet, deep, powerful, and engaging. She learned that God not only accepts us with all our misery, but that he longs for us, thirsts for us, with all the intensity of his divine heart, no matter who we are or what we have done,” (“Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire” pg. 51)
For Mother Teresa, God’s thirst for us signifies a deep, intense desire for us. Since God lacks nothing, his “divine thirst points to the mystery of God’s freely chosen longing for man. Simply put, though nothing in God needs us, everything in God wants us — deeply and intensely, as he shows throughout Scripture.” (“Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire” pg. 51)
As we begin the season of Lent, perhaps it can be a time for all of us to reflect upon how much God desires us. Many do not know of God’s desire, of Jesus’ thirst. Jesus spoke to Mother Teresa in 1947, “They do not know Me — so they don’t want Me,” Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., (“Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,” pg. 77) This could easily be said of people in today’s times.
In Mother Teresa’s “Varanasi Letter,”she wrote, “Not only He loves you, even more — He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. Even if you are not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes — He is the one who always accepts you.” (“Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire” pg. 55)
This perhaps can be the message of Lent to be shared with others. Talk about Good News! Mother Teresa shared, “My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe — You are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet — only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are, He will do the rest.” (“Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire,” pg. 55)
Blessed Mother Teresa, through her life and writings, invites all of us to believe in a God who never tires of seeking us out and forgiving us. If Lent is the “Season of Grace,” what better message can we reflect upon? What better message could be shared with others who have chosen to not be a part of our Catholic faith community?
During this season of Lent, I challenge the whole Catholic community to invite someone they know back to the place where Jesus is most present, the Eucharist. Jesus is weeping over the loss of their presence among us, and is waiting with open arms and a desire to love them. Yes, he thirsts for them in the same way he thirsts for us. Please share this Good News with as many as you can! It may change their life and yours! May you have a blessed Lenten season!
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