PORTLAND---“Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!”
With every pew of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland filled, Bishop Robert 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 (50 additional pictures below). Due to the pandemic, it marked the first Chrism Mass with a capacity assembly since 2019.
“How grateful we are that we can gather, bishop, priests, and people together, as we mark this special day when we bless the oils that we will use for the sacraments during the year and witness our beloved priests renew their priestly commitment,” said the bishop during his homily. “The last two years we have gathered only in smaller numbers. We were constrained by the regulations given for the safety and health of all. With successful vaccinations and new medicines, we are able this year to return to inviting us all to gather and filling the Church. What a joy that is.”
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 Maine parishes and hospitals.
“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,” prayed 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.”
Once consecrated and blessed, respectively, the sacred chrism and oils were prepared by a small group of oil caretakers for distribution to Maine parishes. At the end of the Mass, the oils were distributed to representatives from ten parishes, symbolizing the many parishes, hospitals, and ministries of the Diocese of Portland.
Symbolically receiving the oils this year were priests and laity from St. Michael Parish in Augusta, St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, St. Benedict Parish in Benedicta, St. Brendan the Navigator Parish in Camden, Parish of the Holy Eucharist in Falmouth, Parish of the Ascension of the Lord in Kittery, St. Matthew Parish in Limerick, Christ the Divine Mercy Parish in Millinocket, St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford, and Holy Spirit Parish in Wells.
During his homily, surrounded by nearly 100 priests and deacons in and around the sanctuary, Bishop Deeley offered his gratitude for their faithful service.
“My brothers, I know well how challenging these last two years have been for you. It has been particularly hard to limit participation at Mass. As priests, we draw strength from the participation of those who gather with us for the Eucharist. Despite the difficulties, I am grateful that you worked with the guidelines we were given, and together with me and my staff, we have worked to keep people safe. God bless all of you for your dedication and your creativity during this time.”
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 and the Eucharist that priests are a source of grace.
“Our moment is a special time to be amazed and astonished again by the love that God reveals to us in the Eucharist. We believe that the most blessed Eucharist contains the Church’s spiritual wealth, Christ himself, our Passover and our liv us ing bread. Through his very presence, he offers life to all people,” said the bishop. “Let us pray through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of the Eucharist, that the Lord Jesus might give us the grace to draw all people in our diocese to the gift that is ours in the Mass, and from the grace of that encounter, to proclaim the love we know in Jesus by the witness of our lives.”
Bishop Deeley noted that this year’s Chrism Mass was further significant because it marked the first time in two years he was able to bless those present with the Book of Gospels and receive the gifts from gift bearers prior to holy Communion.
A large choir, the thunderous music, an assembly of the faithful, and scores of clergy delivered a Chrism Mass of beauty, peace, and unity.
“Bishop, priests, deacons, lay people, we come together for this celebration of the Eucharist mindful that every time we gather in our own churches throughout the diocese, we are one Church,” said the bishop.
The Chrism Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Seamus Griesbach, rector of the Cathedral and pastor of the Portland Peninsula & Island Parishes; Monsignor Marc Caron, moderator of the curia and vicar general; Monsignor Andrew Dubois, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor and vicar general; Fr. Evaldas Darulis, OFM, minister provincial of the Province of St. Casimir of Lithuania; Fr. Jack Dickinson, judicial vicar; Monsignor Paul Stefanko, vicar for priests; and Monsignor Rene Mathieu, chair of the Presbyteral Council.
Bishop Deeley will now head to Madawaska for the Mass of the Holy Oils at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. The bishop will be joined by clergy and faithful from around Aroostook County for the Mass during which the oils that will be used in the sacraments in the upcoming year will be distributed to the priests serving in northern Maine. As is the case at the Chrism Mass, the Mass of the Holy Oils is also an opportunity to celebrate and thank the priests of the diocese and for them to renew their commitment to priestly service.
The bishop will then return to the Cathedral for the Holy Thursday Celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (7 p.m.), the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday (7 p.m.), the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday (8 p.m.), and the celebration of the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday (10 a.m.). All of the Masses and services at the Cathedral will also be livestreamed.
A special Holy Week section is available on the Diocese of Portland website that includes Mass and service times at all Maine parishes, listings of special parish events, daily prayers and reflections, and many other resources.
In addition, stories from many Masses and services, messages, and other resources throughout Holy Week will be posted on the diocesan website, the diocesan Facebook page, the diocesan Twitter page, the diocesan Instagram page, myParish App, and on Bishop Deeley’s personal social media pages on Twitter and Instagram.