PORTLAND---"It is a great joy to enter the Cathedral this evening. Our gathering is full of the joy of the Gospel, it is that which brings us together as Church. We gather as one family, as one Church.”
With every pew of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland filled, Bishop Robert P. Deeley joyfully welcomed priests, deacons, religious, and faithful from around the diocese to the annual Chrism Mass, one of the most significant and solemn liturgies of the Catholic Church, on the Tuesday of Holy Week (additional pictures below).
During the Mass, Bishop Deeley consecrated the sacred chrism and blessed the oil of the sick and the oil of catechumens for use in administering the sacraments at all parishes throughout the diocese during the coming year. The sacred chrism is used for baptism, confirmation, ordination of priests, and the consecration of altars and churches. The oil of the sick is used to anoint the sick, bringing God’s healing, strength, and forgiveness to those in need. The oil of the catechumens (individuals preparing for baptism in the Catholic Church) is blessed to strengthen those preparing for baptism to avoid sin and to grow in faith.
Bishop Deeley consecrated the sacred chrism by adding balsam to olive oil and blowing into the urn, a sign of the Holy Spirit. Bishops are the only ordained ministers who can consecrate chrism, but he does so in union with his priests who are present.
“Father, by the power of your love, make this mixture of oil and perfume a sign and source of your blessing,” said the bishop. “Pour out the gifts of your Holy Spirit on our brothers and sisters who will be anointed with it. Let the splendor of holiness shine on the world from every place and thing signed with this oil.”
At the end of the Mass, the oils were distributed to representatives from 12 parishes, a hospital, and a healthcare facility, 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 as well as facing an overflowing assembly, Bishop Deeley told those gathered about how a recent question from a fourth-grade student has reminded him of the great challenge all believers face.
“A young man asked me ‘How do you stay faithful when everything is so bad?’” said the bishop. “This is who we are as a society, a culture where children are concerned about the bad condition of our world. There is work for us to do.”
That work, the bishop said, is the Church’s mission: a mission for all who are baptized to bring the saving truth of Jesus to others.
“The message of Jesus is a message of joy. I can invite all of us to take seriously the faith we profess, to know the joy that God takes in us, and, in living in that joy, to make the world less the ‘bad’ place this young man fears, because those who are on fire with the joy of the Gospel want to work together for the common good, seeking to help each other, and knowing that the ways in which we serve one another make our lives richer, and our culture less divided. Yes, let us strive, with the grace of God, to be a priestly people.”
The bishop briefly spoke in Spanish to offer a special welcome to members of the Hispanic/Latino community present and mentioned the significance of this September’s V Encuentro, a national conference that aims to discern ways in which the Church can better respond to their needs. It marks the first time that an official contingent from Maine, where the Hispanic/Latino community continues to grow, will attend the conference to be held in Texas.
“It continues a conversation which allows us in our diocese to respond with more fidelity and enthusiasm to the Hispanic/Latino presence in our parishes. Out of the immense fear in which many of this community live or out of work restriction, they are sometimes not visible, but the Encuentro process reminds us that we must continue to seek ways to minister to them. At the same time, that same process calls on the Hispanic/Latino community itself to live their vocation more fully as joyful missionaries to the whole Church.”
During the Mass, Bishop Deeley invited the priests to renew their commitment to priestly service, thanking them for their faithful witness to Jesus Christ; the Word of Life they deliver through preaching; and the Bread of Life they give in the Eucharist.
“You are the leaders of the communities where the questions are asked, where the struggles are encountered, but you are also the leaders of the communities where faith is lived,” Bishop Deeley told the priests. “As you carry it back to your parishes, remind yourself that this is the oil of gladness, of joy. Bringing the oils back to your parishes is an errand. But allowing it to renew your hearts in the joy of the Lord is the work of your life as a priest. The oil of gladness brings to life the joy in us which Christ’s love brings into our world.”
For those unable to attend Tuesday’s Chrism Mass, it will be broadcast on the Presence Radio Network on tape delay on Wednesday, March 28, at 9 p.m.
On Wednesday evening, Bishop Deeley will celebrate the Mass of the Oils at St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Houlton. The Mass of the Oils includes the distribution of blessed and consecrated oils to parishes located in northern Maine. It offers the opportunity for the priests who gather to renew their promises as well. Like the Chrism Mass, Bishop Deeley will also celebrate this Mass with the deacons, religious, and lay faithful from those areas.
In addition to the pictures below, pictures and videos from many Masses, services, and events throughout Holy Week will be posted here on the diocesan website and the diocesan Facebook page. For links to Mass and service times around Maine for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigils, and Easter Sunday, visit the Diocese of Portland’s special Holy Week section. The section also includes listings of parish events, daily prayers, reflections, and other Holy Week resources.