At the start of the Chrism Mass, Bishop John Noonan joked that it had been a long time since he had seen so many priests at church. In fact, nearly 200 priests of the Diocese of Orlando were seated at St. James Cathedral the evening of April 1. For 15 minutes they processed into the church two by two stopping at the altar to genuflect before taking their seats.
Also in the congregation were more than 1,000 of Christ’s faithful including parishioners, religious sisters, deacons and seminarians. So many people participated that the church was standing room only with the overflow chapel also filled to capacity.
St. Clare Parish of Deltona brought two busloads of parishioners to the Chrism Mass and St. Timothy Parish, Lady Lake and St. Jude Parish, Ocala each brought one busload.
What brought so many people to this annual Chrism Mass celebrated during the Holiest week of the Church year? The chance to witness the blessing of the sacred oils — Sacred Chrism, the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumen —that will be used for sacramental purposes at parishes and the diocese throughout the year and to celebrate, pray for and honor the priests who serve them. The Mass was also live streamed so others who could not travel to the cathedral could see these ancient rituals that still have such significance to the Catholic faith.
Traditionally, the Chrism Mass is noted by two poignant moments – the blessing of the oils and the priests’ renewal of their commitment to serve Christ and his Church as they profess the promises they made at their ordinations to the priesthood. In addition, 11 priests celebrating 25, 50 and 60 years anniversaries were honored.
“Tonight, you the people, we come to celebrate a day of priesthood,” Bishop Noonan said. “We come to give thanks for our priests, and we come especially to pray for our priests. We are so blessed to have so many wonderful priests, so many dedicated priests, so many priests who wish to give their lives in service in the Lord’s name.”
In his homily, Bishop Noonan said priesthood is a very special gift.
“Some call the priesthood a covenant of love because God loves his priests so much that priests are obliged to repay God for his special love for them.”
“Priests are called constantly to improve and to grow in communion, in holiness, in wisdom in order to carry out God’s mission,” he added.
Bishop Noonan reminded the priests that the priesthood of Jesus Christ is a priesthood for all.
“We are blessed with our priesthood,” he said. “We have up to 14 different nationalities [of priests in our diocese]. We are so grateful for each and every one. It is because we are one that truly makes the gift of priesthood so powerful and so important in our lives.”
“God’s love never ends,” he continued. “It is poured into our hearts to bear all things, to believe all things, to hope all things and to endure all things because the Spirit of the Lord is upon you and he has anointed you to bring glad tidings.”