CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone exhorted the standing-room only crowd to seek and rejoice in a newness of life at the annual chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist held March 22.
The reverent ceremony, held on the Tuesday of Holy Week, has a twofold purpose. Also called the Mass of the Oils, it is the time when the bishop consecrates the sacred oils that are used in sacraments each 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.
It was a larger than normal crowd this year, with ushers bringing in folding chairs for groups of women, and men standing along the back wall and doors of the cathedral. People smiled and filmed their ordained leaders as they processed in, with more than 130 deacons and priests, led by the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard, lifting people’s hearts in an impressive display of pageantry and faith.
Bishop Guglielmone noted that the chrism Mass, and all the ritual celebrations, remind us each year to keep striving for that level of perfect closeness with the Lord. He acknowledged that it isn’t an easy task and that we all fall and fail along the way.
“No one can say they have it all together. If they do, then they’ve already sinned because it would be a lie,” the bishop said during his homily.
Instead, he entreated people to live their lives in the way of Jesus. He reminded the congregation that Christ did not come to redeem the world through power as a king or ruler, but as a servant, through love and solidarity.
“We can do no less in reaching out to others,” Bishop Guglielmone told his priests. “We cannot act as Lords of the manor … We’re called to be humble servants … In essence, we are called to give our lives away in humble service.”
He called on the faithful to move away from what is hindering them from living more fully with God, instructing them to find a deeper insight into how they can better live their lives and achieve the ultimate goal of closeness with God.
Matthew Bour, a freshman at The Citadel, was surprised and awed by the large crowd at the Chrism Mass. He said he usually attends Mass on campus with Father Dennis Willey, pastor of Sacred Heart Church and the college’s chaplain.
After listening to the bishop’s homily, Bour said he has already done several things to bring him closer to the Lord, such as attending daily Mass and passing through the Holy Door of the Cathedral. As part of the Holy Year, he said he also wants to participate in the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy to build faith and do good works.
Bishop Guglielmone thanked all his priests, and gave a special nod to those celebrating milestone anniversaries, including Msgr. James Carter and Fathers Guerric Heckel, OCSO, and Eugene Leonard for 50 years of service; and Msgr. Steven Brovey and Fathers Alexander McDonald, Gregory West and Patrick Cooper for 25 years with the diocese; plus Fathers Michael Okere, Jaime Gonzalez and Gustavo Corredor, who also mark 25 years as priests.
Deacon Gabriel Cuervo, who celebrated part of the Mass in Spanish, also helped carry one of the silver urns holding the sacred oils, while students from Bishop England High School brought up the gifts.
As the Christian world celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus, Bishop Guglielmone asked everyone to remember how quickly the crowd turned on a messiah they considered king and ruler, but how everlasting the devotion has been for the Messiah who loved us even unto death.
“It is in this that every knee should bend,” he said.
Photos by Doug Deas