PORTLAND—“It is so good to be together this evening. This is the gathering when we celebrate our identity as Church.”
With every pew of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland filled, Catholic Bishop Robert P. Deeley joyfully welcomed priests, deacons, religious and faithful from around Maine to the annual Chrism Mass, one of the most significant and solemn liturgies of the Catholic Church, held on the Tuesday of Holy Week.
In asking for prayers for the people of Paris after Monday’s fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and in describing the many challenges faced and overcome during the 150 years since the dedication of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Deeley reminded the hundreds gathered that the work of the Church is not always easy.
“It is remarkable, however, to see the work the Lord accomplishes through us, and the grace which abounds in our Church,” said the bishop. “This is the evening when we are able to do that and rejoice in the goodness of God who blesses us with the mission of bringing his love and mercy into our world. What a joy it is to gather in this sacred space with the realization that what we are doing has been done in this sacred place for all these years.”
During the Mass, Bishop Deeley consecrated the sacred chrism by adding balsam to olive oil and blowing into the urn, a sign of the Holy Spirit. The sacred chrism will be used throughout the Diocese of Portland in the coming year for baptism, confirmation, and the consecration of altars and churches.
Bishops are the only ordained ministers who can consecrate chrism, but he does so in union with his priests who are present.
“We beseech you, O Lord, that by the power of your grace, this mingling of fragrance and oil become for us a sacrament of your blessing,” prayed the bishop. “Pour out in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit on our brothers and sisters anointed with this oil.”
Bishop Deeley also blessed the oil of the sick, which is used to anoint the sick, bringing God’s healing, strength and forgiveness to those in need at all Maine parishes.
“Send forth from the heavens, we pray, your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, upon this oil in all its richness, which you have graciously brought forth from the verdant tree to restore the body, so that by your holy blessing, everyone anointed with this oil as a safeguard for body, soul, and spirit, may be freed from all pain, all infirmity, and all sickness,” said the bishop.
In addition, the oil of the catechumens (individuals preparing for baptism in the Catholic Church) was blessed by the bishop to strengthen catechumens in avoiding sin and growing in faith.
“Grant courage to the catechumens who will be anointed with it so that receiving divine wisdom and power, they may understand more deeply the Gospel of your Christ, they may undertake with a generous heart the labors of the Christian life, and, made worthy of adoption as your sons and daughters, they may rejoice to be born anew and to live in your Church.”
At the end of the Mass, the oils were distributed to representatives from 12 parishes and a hospital, representing all the parishes and many ministries of the Diocese of Portland.
During his homily, surrounded by nearly 100 priests and deacons in and around the sanctuary, Bishop Deeley offered his gratitude for their faithful service.
“You have continued to do what the Lord has called you to do. In fact, we believe that He has chosen you to do the ministry which is yours,” said the bishop. “You minister in the name and in the person of Christ. He uses your voice to speak his words of mercy, to free those held captive by sin. He uses your hands to heal the brokenhearted and to offer the Eucharist as the bread of life.”
During the Mass, Bishop Deeley invited the priests to renew their commitment to priestly service and added that it is in the fidelity to their mission that priests are a source of grace, even when they are unaware that God is working through them.
“This Mass reminds us, my brothers, that each of you is a sacrament, a sign that brings the people you serve to encounter the living God in Jesus Christ,” said the bishop. “Deepen within your hearts the beauty and grace of your calling as priests. Spending time with the Lord will help you.”
The bishop reminded the assembly that they, too, are called to holiness of life and to pray for each other.
“That together, we might grow in appreciation of the vocation that God gives to each of us and live that vocation by bringing God’s love to life in our world.”
Bishop Deeley concluded his homily with special message of unity to those suffering in Paris and around the world after Monday’s tragic fire.
“May we rely on the intercession of Mary, our Mother. Under the title of the ‘Immaculate Conception’ she is the patroness of this cathedral, even as she is for the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. With gratitude for God’s goodness in our hearts, we pray for ourselves and for the people of France whose temple of God’s glory has been so marred by this destructive fire.”
A special Holy Week section is available on the Diocese of Portland website that includes Mass times at all Maine parishes, listings of parish events, daily prayers and reflections, and many other resources. The section can be found at www.portlanddiocese.org/Holy-Week-2019. In addition, pictures and videos from many Masses, services, and events throughout Holy Week will be posted on the diocesan website (www.portlanddiocese.org), the diocesan Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PortlandDiocese), and the diocesan Twitter page (www.twitter.com/PortlandDiocese).