The spirit of the Lord God is upon us!
For he has anointed us!
The Chrism Mass celebrated by a bishop and his presbyterium, his college of priests, is very significant in its meaning and pastoral importance in the life of a diocese. This is my first Chrism Mass as your bishop – and, I must admit it is hard not to allow my emotions to overwhelm me as I gather you around this altar. Together we will consecrate the Sacred Chrism and bless the Holy Oils. Together we will offer the Most Holy Sacrifice in this liturgy that takes us back to the Upper Room where the First Mass was celebrated and our priesthood was instituted.
This Mass is a special sign of the unity of our priesthood and testifies that we – bishop and priests – share a common ministry to teach, to govern and to sanctify the people of God. For these reasons, I deemed it an opportune occasion for me as the fourth bishop of this local Church to solemnly convoke our first diocesan synod. A synod is a “coming together” of our Catholic family to examine our response to the universal call to holiness, our pastoral care of the faithful and our commitment to evangelize and witness to God’s kingdom here in the Diocese of Orlando.
The years ahead will bring new opportunities and challenges. For me, this underscores our urgent need for prayerful consideration of our call to conversion and holiness, and our need to forge a common vision and plan for the Diocese of Orlando in its many expressions throughout Central Florida – our parishes, our schools, Catholic Charities and the many other organizations that bear witness to our life changing work.
Through the synod process, all the Catholic people of the Diocese of Orlando, its priests, its deacons, its religious and its laity, will have the opportunity to recommend to me as your new shepherd a course of action so that “starting afresh from Christ” we might meet the challenges of evangelization in this new century.
The Synod, with God’s help and your active collaboration, can be for all of us the beginning of an exciting work of pastoral revitalization.
While this is a first in the relatively young history of our diocese, synods are as old as the Church herself – and throughout her history, synods have been used by bishops in their role as shepherds to seek counsel from their immediate collaborators, the priests, and from the People of God themselves to assist them as they teach, rule and sanctify the local Churches entrusted to their care.
In 1790, the first American bishop, John Carroll, summoned his clergy to a diocesan canonical synod at St. Peter’s pro-cathedral in Baltimore . He and 22 priests met the following year. At that time, among the topics discussed were: the danger of mixed marriages to the faith of young Catholics; Easter duty – the obligation of all Catholics to go to confession and receive Holy Communion during the Easter season; the proper disposition of parish funds; priestly vocations and the religious education of children.
These themes would be addressed time and time again at similar gatherings over the next two centuries. And these same themes or variations of them still will concern us today. The purpose of our Synod here in Orlando will be to examine what we must do as a community of faith.
We have to translate into pastoral initiatives or goals, adapted to our circumstances, the “plan found in the gospel and the living tradition to make Christ known, loved and imitated so that in Him we may live the life of the Trinity and with Him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem .” (Novo Millennio Ineunte).
Starting afresh from Christ , we will be able to face the challenges of the present with enthusiasm and to prepare for the challenges of the future with confidence.
Like the bishops who have gone before me whose contributions to the life of this local church I gratefully acknowledge, I also must turn to people like you to seek your counsel, your collaboration and your support. Together we must devote our best efforts to proclaim the gospel more compellingly, to foster the growth in holiness of our people more coherently, and to transmit the treasure of our faith to the younger generation more effectively.
The Synod is a process and an instrument to assist me in my task of pastoral governance. It will be specifically designed to help me and the priests of this diocese understand the needs of those whom we serve. We will listen to the needs of the faithful, and at the same time, we will be prepared to act on those needs. Starting Afresh from Christ we will meet the challenges and opportunities that await us.
The Chrism Mass itself also offers the priests of a local church as they gather around their bishop an opportunity to make a “fresh start” by renewing their commitment to priestly service. Today, we do so in the presence of two deacons, Jorge Torres and Scot Circe. In June, they will join the ranks of this presbyterate when they are ordained priests.
We also renewed our commitment to priestly service in the presence of two of our more senior brothers, Father Val Sheedy and Redemptorist Father Donald Winters. This year they celebrate the golden jubilee of their priestly ordinations. For fifty years, they have labored in the Lord’s vineyard; they have endured the heat of the day. These men have served – and they have served well – as priests through times of great change and turmoil.
Such times of change and turmoil make many people afraid – and indeed one of the marks of our times is that fear. So many people today fear any permanent commitments – and this is true not only in regards to a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life but also in regards to the vocation to marriage and family life. Yet in spite of their fears, people still want to see witnesses – persons of faith and communion.
Today we thank you, jubilarians and transitional deacons, for your witness and for your courage. You inspire all of us, especially those of us who are priests as we recommit ourselves today to priestly service for the glory of God and the good of his people. That courage is manifested in the youthful enthusiasm of our two deacons and that courage has been distilled through the wisdom of age and experience in our golden jubilarians. You inspire us not to be afraid as we again start afresh from Christ.
Today, all priests feel a special stirring in our hearts as we recall the events that transpired in that upper room on the eve of Christ’s passion. Like Peter when Jesus drew near him to wash his feet, we can protest our unworthiness. And, if we don’t, you, God’s holy people, will. You will no doubt remind us of our unworthiness. And this is perhaps fitting – for our gift – the gift of priesthood is not given to us for our sakes but for yours. For Jesus having washed our feet, calls us to imitate him so that in pastoral charity we wash your feet.
Please do remember our unworthiness – not to throw in our faces, for most of us, most of the time, are acutely aware of it. But, remember our unworthiness –and so pray for us. Pray for your priests. All of you want and need good and faithful priests. You must never tire of asking God on your behalf and on ours. Pray that we be the priests you need, the priests you deserve. Pray that you will never lack for such priests.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon us! For he has anointed us!
Together, priests and Christ’s faithful, deacons and consecrated men and women, together we must continue respond to the universal vocation to holiness that we all have received through our baptismal anointing by once again Starting Afresh from Christ.
Bishop Thomas Wenski
Chrism Mass 2005
March 23, 2005
Holy Oils Consecrated During Chrism Mass:
The clear aim of the Chrism Mass is for the blessing and consecration of the oils used during the Church year. The oil of the sick, an oil of healing (used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick) and the oil of catechumens, an oil of faith building (used to anoint those preparing for baptism, both infants and adults), as well as the consecration of the Sacred Chrism (used in baptism, confirmation, and ordination) take place during this liturgy. The oils used today are 100% virgin olive oil. Pastors carry these oils back to their parishes where they will be part of celebrations for the coming year, beginning with the Easter Vigil. The new oils are formally brought to the parish on Holy Thursday. The old oils are burned in the Easter fire on Holy Saturday.