Chrism Mass calls priests to simplicity, mercy

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone invited more than 100 priests to commit themselves to lives of compassion and simplicity at the annual chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston on April 15.

The solemn, meaningful ceremony, traditionally held on the Tuesday of Holy Week, has a twofold purpose. It is also called the Mass of the Oils because the bishop consecrates sacred oils to be used in sacraments over the coming year. The clergy also renew their priestly vows and commitment to ministry.

The three sacred oils are the oil of catechumens, used in baptism; oil of the sick, which anoints those who are ill, and the oil of sacred chrism, the Church’s chief anointing oil used to bless new churches, altars and other sacred objects.

In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone reflected on the Scripture readings used for the Mass, which stay the same year after year. They include passages from Isaiah, the Book of Revelation and Luke’s Gospel, all focused on God’s covenant with his people and the importance of those he anoints and calls to be their leaders and shepherds.

“The words of these Scriptures focus on priestly commitment, and the Church asks us to take them very seriously,” he said. “I’ve heard these words proclaimed over and over at chrism Masses over the past 40 years, and to me they are at the core of what it is to be a priest. They have never loomed so large over the priesthood as they do now.” He reflected on the actions of Pope Francis, who “constantly surprises” him with new ways of expressing a deep, passionate commitment to simplicity and mercy. He mentioned the pope’s dismissal of luxury, his restructuring of many Vatican positions and finances, and insistence that Church leaders should commit themselves to simple lives.

“The pope offers a constant challenge to priests, bishops, and all involved in ministry that we have to get back to the basics, back to the simplicity of Christ,” the bishop said. “He recently told a group of seminarians in Rome that they are not preparing to be functionaries, but shepherds, and they should perhaps choose another path if that is not the way they are prepared to live.” He urged lay people in attendance to pray constantly for their priests and also for him. Many times, he said, it is hard to focus on being a shepherd when priests must also act like an accountant, a building manager and a human resources manager.

“There is so much administrative work demanded of us that prayer and personal ministry are not always at the center of what we do,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “There is not time to do it all, but it is still possible to live the lives to which we are anointed and ordained, lives of reaching out to God’s people with joy and enthusiasm. Pope Francis is calling us to be a Church that is not wagging its finger at people, not scolding them, but inviting people and befriending them. It’s a mission of compassion, of love and of mercy.”

Bishop Guglielmone congratulated new priest Father Renaurd West, who was ordained in June 2013. He honored three who are newly incardinated and now officially priests of the Diocese of Charleston: Father Henry N. Kulah, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Charleston; Father Daniel R. Papineau, administrator at St. Benedict Church in Mount Pleasant; and Father Noel Tria, administrator of St. Mark Church in Newberry, Holy Spirit Mission in Laurens and St. Boniface Church in Joanna.

The bishop also welcomed priests from the Oratory in Rock Hill and Mepkin Abbey, and noted a special guest, Bishop Emeritus Victor Galeone of the Diocese of St. Augustine, who now lives at the abbey.

Afterward, the priests enjoyed a luncheon at the Cathedral Center, and took time to reflect on a happy day together, despite rain and wind that moved in during the Mass.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the vocation we have through God’s grace, the vocation that I love,” said Father C. Thomas Miles, pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Folly Beach. “It’s a chance to reaffirm my commitment as a priest.”

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