The Diocese of Buffalo continued a time-honored Holy Week tradition that renewed the promises of all diocesan priests and enabled Bishop Richard J. Malone to prepare sacred oils for use in sacraments throughout the diocese. The Chrism Mass, held at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo April 11, also included the participation of "The Elect," soon-to-be Catholics initiated later in the week.
Bishop Malone consecrated the chrism, olive oil used on priests during their ordination and on newly baptized Catholics, after he called upon diocesan priests in attendance that Tuesday evening to renew their priestly promises. The bishop also blessed the oil of catechumens, used to anoint candidates for baptism, as well as the oil of the sick, which is used during the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
"Dear brother priests, dear brother deacons, women and men religious, lay faithful, a warm welcome to our cathedral as we come together to celebrate this very special liturgy, as we bless and consecrate the holy oils for sacramental life in the Church here in Western New York for the coming year," Bishop Malone told the congregation before him. "We are so grateful that we have come together tonight for this beautiful act of praise and thanks to God for His call to us to be, and to grow as, His holy people."
During the Mass, Bishop Malone welcomed The Elect, those to become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church later in the week, to the front of the altar for a blessing. Before dismissing them, he said, "My dear friends, we all share your joy as you prepare in the next few days to be fully initiated into our community at the Easter Vigil. Go now in peace, and may the Lord be with you always."
According to Bishop Malone, the Chrism Mass is always one of the best-attended liturgies of the year in the diocese. He expressed his belief that "such enthusiastic participation" is a sign that those who come to it annually "appreciate the truth that it is only together, as lay faithful, religious, deacons and priests gathered with our bishops, it is only together that we are truly Church." He also urged attendees to grow in faith together and continue their mission to "touch lives with the joy, hope and truth of Jesus Christ."
In his homily, Bishop Malone explained the significance of the holy oils brought to the altar with the gifts of bread and wine. The oil of catechumens, used in the anointing of those preparing for baptism, reminds those about to be baptized of their need for God's strength and resisting the power of evil going forward, he explained. The sacred chrism, used on men, women, children and youth who are baptized and confirmed, on hands of newly ordained priests and on heads of new bishops, designates commitment to the faith and the deep bond with Christ. The oil of the sick imparts the healing presence of God to the suffering.
For various historical reasons, the Chrism Mass has, over the years, taken on a special focus on ordained priesthood, according to the bishop, and the occasion for preparing the sacred oils also becomes one in which priests recommit themselves to God and vows they made at their ordinations. The renewal of priestly promises is meant to encourage living and serving in ways appropriate for an ordained servant of God.
The bishop asked three questions: "Are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your bishop and God's holy people, the promises you once made?" "Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties toward Christ's Church which, prompted by love of Him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?" "Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ ... Not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?" To each, the priests answered, "I am."
In addition to expressing his appreciation for service diocesan priests provide for the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Malone also thanked women and men religious, deacons and all who serve in the Church's ministry, including lay ecclesiastical women and men. "We are doing well with vocations, but we need to do better," the bishop added, urging attendees to do what they can in encouraging priestly vocations. "Without Eucharist, there is no Church, and without the priesthood, there is no Eucharist," Bishop Malone reflected.