Priestly Vows Renewed in Mass of the Sacred ChrismWednesday 31st March 2021
Today Bishop John celebrated the Mass of the Sacred Chrism from Salford Cathedral as a celebration of the priesthood and the consecration of the holy oils.
The Chrism Mass is the occasion on which the bishop blesses the holy oils, and when the priests renew their promises of ordination to serve God and his people. The service is one of the most solemn and beautiful to take place during the year, and it offers an opportunity for clergy, religious and laity from all parishes in the diocese to join together in prayer.
There are three oils that are blessed at the Chrism Mass: that of the sick, that of chrism, and that of catechumens. These are used wherever there is a sacramental anointing, such as the anointing of the sick, the anointing of those about to be or newly baptised, and the anointing of priests.
Usually at the Chrism Mass, Salford Cathedral is filled with clergy from across the diocese. This year, many members of the clergy across our diocese joined the livestream of the Chrism Mass from their own parishes, while Vicar Generals, Episcopal Vicars and the Vicars of the Religious and Deans acted as representatives.
In his homily, Bishop John said: “There’s no doubting the commitment of the disciples, they left everything to follow Jesus. They’ve been with him for about three years, in towns and villages in Galilee, they’d listened to him, they’d never deserted or walked away from him but they hadn’t always understood what he was saying, in the Parables. They’d had difficulty among themselves, often arguing over who is the most important and they were very different characters. James and John wouldn’t get the name Boanerges Sons of Thunder if there wasn’t some difference in character among the twelve.
“They are committed to the Lord and Jesus is utterly committed to them. There are times when he’s clearly annoyed and angry at their lack of understanding, but he never gives up on them. We can see on this Holy Week in the events where there are two different stories: the disciples overjoyed in the entry into Jerusalem – at last, we’re here and Jesus is going to be recognised as the Messiah – and then there is Jesus knowing that his hour has now come, that he’s going to suffer and die and rise again. He has a lot to teach them, even at the Last Supper and he will go on being faithful to them. And then after the resurrection, he will come back and explain to them everything that he’d explained to them before but they hadn’t understood, but there comes that moment when he knows he has to leave them.
“They’re going to have to start making the decisions, discern the way ahead. How are we going to build Church? How do we take our mission to the whole world as Jesus has told us we need to do. They’re going to have to make those preliminary decisions, talking among themselves about what is the best way to do things.
“Pope Francis talks a great deal, particularly in Let Us Dream, about discernment and Synodality. That gripping together of opinions, that openness – not going into a meeting with a fixed opinion, arguing my cause and wanting to get my way, but an open discussion, guided by the spirit in which we see the way ahead.
“Hopefully without too many more delays or setbacks we will emerge from this pandemic. But we will emerge into a world that is quite changed and one in which we need to behave quite differently. There are so many people who have suffered so much throughout the pandemic – we hear a lot about mental stress and illness of so many people for many different reasons. We also have to rebuild an economy which is not the one we had before, that wasn’t working too well. It is simply making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and ignoring so much of the global needs of our brothers and sisters. We’re going to have to learn to care for our environment in a much more radical way than we have done until now, so we need to discern the future.
I think as we come together to renew our priestly vows we can recognise the importance of working as one, that we discern the way in which we build our Church here in the Diocese of Salford, in which we renew and make new, and build back better as Pope Francis has said on so many occasions.
Let’s be open to what the spirit may be asking of us, let’s be open to the way in which we may be guided. I am so grateful to the imaginative ways in which priests have responded in this last year in their ministry, making sure people aren’t marginalised and forgotten. There have been so many wonderful ideas that have kept parish communities together. Let’s be open now to working as one body of priests in this diocese, to see how we may build our church, and how we may care for our common home and our brothers and sisters without marginalising anyone.
It’s going to be a strange time, a time when we can’t have a simple plan for the future. We must call constantly on that sense of discernment and review, so that speaking together honestly, we may find the way ahead. God bless you for all that you have done in the past year, and let’s ask the Lord to make us strong in the years to come so that we may do his will and provide for his people.
Stay with us, Lord, on our Journey.
The following questions were then spoken by the Bishop to the priests of the diocese:
Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us,
are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop, and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?
Priests: I am.
Are you resolved to be more unified with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and
confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?
Priests: I am.
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 the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?
Priests: I am.