“We might well have preferred that the Chrism Mass be held in its proper time of the year.
But the truth of the matter is that Jesus is with us today. In Jesus, we see our hope.”
PORTLAND---“We will bless the oils, and particularly Holy Chrism, which become, then, the symbols of our hope and our firm conviction that the Lord will be with us this year,” said Bishop Robert Deeley.
It is one of the most significant and solemn liturgies of the Catholic Church. Each year during Holy Week, every pew of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland is filled for the Chrism Mass.
But this is not an ordinary year, and on Friday afternoon, most of the seats and choir box were empty for the 2020 celebration of the Mass (many additional pictures below), which instead was live-streamed to a large viewership across Maine over two months after it was initially scheduled to occur.
“There would be general agreement among us, I suspect, in offering the opinion that the year is turned upside down,” said Bishop Deeley, who celebrated the Mass. “In these days, we are closing in on the 4th of July and the beautiful weather of summer and yet here we are celebrating our Chrism Mass, something which customarily happens at about that point where winter makes a final attempt to keep us in the ice age!”
Over 30 priests representing different areas of the state concelebrated the Mass with the bishop and accepted the oils for the many parishes around the Diocese of Portland as well as for hospital ministry use. Due to the pandemic, the priests were staggered at a safe distance in pews. The large procession of clergy that typically begins the Chrism Mass was suspended this year.
“I am happy that some of us are able to be together for this Mass, but I regret that it is not all of our priests and deacons who serve the people of the diocese,” Bishop Deeley said during his homily. “It is a beautiful thing to be able to gather together for Eucharist, and particularly for this one, the Chrism Mass. Not being able to do that gives us further reason to keep each other in prayer and to assure each other that we will look forward to next year.”
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 is used for baptism, confirmation, and the consecration of altars and churches. It is also used in priestly ordinations, like for Deacon Alex Boucher, who is scheduled to be ordained in Biddeford in August. Deacon Boucher served as the Deacon of the Word for the Chrism Mass.
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 Bishop Deeley. “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.
“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. Safety protocols were followed to ensure the safety of those handling the packaging and distribution.
During the Mass, Bishop Deeley also invited the priests present and those participating via livestream 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. The bishop also offered special gratitude for their dedication through such a difficult time.
“During these past months, you have celebrated that Eucharist alone. Now, we are once again able to gather the people with us for the Eucharist. To experience their joy in returning to the Eucharist is a powerful reminder for us that our people depend on our hope and trust in the fidelity of God’s love. Thank you for your ministry to the people, both in the Eucharist and in your service. The two are so connected.”
The calendar was a few pages ahead, and the large choir, thunderous music, packed assembly of the faithful, and a hundred clergy members were missing on Friday.
But the function, importance, beauty, and tradition of the Chrism Mass were served well.
“We might well have preferred that the Chrism Mass be held in its proper time of the year. But the truth of the matter is that Jesus is with us today,” said the bishop. “He is not here to remind us of when we might have gathered. He is with us as we do gather. So let us be grateful for the bounty of his love and what that brings to our lives. In Jesus, we see our hope. As we bring these blessed oils to the people we serve, let us pray that the Lord will strengthen us in our trust in him. To Him, indeed, be glory and power forever and ever.”
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Deeley publicly thanked Monsignor Andrew Dubois, who served as the master of ceremonies during the Chrism Mass and received loud applause from his fellow priests. Monsignor Dubois will become the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor this August. Monsignor Dubois serves as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Portland. As vicar general and moderator, he assists the bishop in the administration and pastoral care of the diocese, overseeing those who hold offices and minister in diocesan administration. Along with his new duties, Monsignor Dubois will remain a vicar general for the diocese.