CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone urged priests and the faithful gathered for the annual chrism Mass to focus on the spiritual nourishment offered by the Eucharist.
The ceremony was held March 27 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It is also known as the Mass of the Oils, and in the Diocese of Charleston it is held on Tuesday of Holy Week. Traditionally, it is held on Holy Thursday in other locations.
Chrism Mass serves a two-fold purpose. It is the time each year that the bishop consecrates the sacred oils used in the sacraments, and also marks the renewal of priestly vows and commitment to ministry for our clergy.
During the Mass, deacons carry large silver containers containing the oils up to the altar to be blessed by the bishop. The three oils are oil of catechumens, used in baptism; oil of the sick, to anoint those who are ill; and sacred chrism, called the church’s chief anointing oil and used to dedicate churches, altars and other sacred objects, and for baptisms, confirmations and holy orders.
A large crowd gathered for a powerful witness to the commitment of the clergy who serve the diocese as they watched more than 100 priests and dozens of deacons process into the Cathedral at the start of Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone paid tribute to the sacrifices and challenges that priests face in their daily lives. He also challenged the clergy never consider their duties as routine, but to remember the vital importance of the work they do, especially the celebration of the Eucharist.
He noted that the chrism Mass is especially important in a diocese that covers a large area, where some priests are rarely able to see their colleagues.
“Today, we bless the oils and we celebrate the priesthood of Jesus Christ as it is lived out in the lives of the many men in this diocese who serve as priests,” he said. “This day is a celebration of the unity of the presbyterate with the bishop and with each other.”
Bishop Guglielmone stressed the fact that the daily celebration of Mass and the importance of the Eucharist must be the central focus of the life of a priest.
“As priests, we are called to pray the Mass,” he said. “We must never allow the celebration of the Eucharist to become routine. The Blessed Sacrament is where we get the strength for the work we were ordained to do.”
He said that blessing the sacred oils at the same Mass where priests renew their vows is important because it reminds everyone of the true meaning of the sacraments and all they offer in the life of the Church.
“These oils are used in sacraments which are meant to be encounters with the living Christ,” he said. “Each of these oils is a symbol of how the Lord himself continues to act in and through his Church.”
Bishop Guglielmone acknowledged that priests today face many challenges, ranging from a growing secularism in society to isolation, loneliness, and a loss of some of the traditional support networks that they once had. He said this is why constant prayer, a commitment to priestly unity, and a focus on the Eucharist is all the more important.
“At ordination, priests are anointed to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world, and we must never lose the sense of idealism we had when we were newly ordained, even though it might be hard to hold onto,” the bishop said. “We must remain strong in our prayer, and remember that Jesus knows each of us and loves us just as we are. Pope Francis calls us to be physicians in the field hospital of the Church, but sometimes we must also see ourselves as patients. We need Christ, we need the Eucharist, we need each other as priests, and we need the people that we serve.”
Top photo: Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone blesses the three types of oils used in the sacraments of the Church.