Chrism Mass: A sign of unity between Bishop and Priests Print this post

by Billy Atwell, Florida Catholic (4/23/2012)

VENICE — The annual Chrism Mass is a celebration held in Dioceses throughout the world and serves to demonstrate the unity between the priests of the Diocese and their bishop. In the Diocese of Venice, this year’s Chrism Mass was held April 3 at Epiphany Cathedral with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as the main celebrant.

The Chrism Mass is one of the principal expressions of the fullness of the Bishop’s priesthood and signifies the close unity of the priests with him. “The Church is called to unity,” Bishop Dewane said. “In a very particular way, the priest is called to unity with his Bishop.”

A clear sign of that unity was seen as Bishop Dewane concelebrated the Mass with more than 150 priests from across the Diocese of Venice.

The Mass also serves to recognize priests and deacons who are celebrating jubilee anniversary of their ordination this year.  In addition, there is a consecration and blessing of the sacred oils used for the various sacraments by the Bishop and by priests in parishes/missions throughout the year.

Having all the priests of the Diocese come together at the Chrism Mass also serves to remind the priest of their calling to act in the person of Christ — in persona Christi, Bishop Dewane said.

This message of unity between the Bishop and the priests was highlighted when the priests renewed their commitment to priestly service. During the renewal, the gathered priests stood as one and spoke with one voice in response to questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These were the same questions asked of them when they were ordained as priests.

The promises at the time of ordination to chastity and obedience to the Bishop, is a unique calling that takes courage, Bishop Dewane noted. “The priestly promises are costly — but at the same time they are at bargain prices. They are well worth the sacrifices… We must stand up for who we are, and never stop sharing the Word of God…May we all have courage, whatever the cost may be.”

In speaking further about the joy, grace and responsibility in the priestly life, Bishop Dewane said that among important gifts necessary in the priestly life are humility and courage, which cannot be separated. Priests are the public faces of the Church, ordained to speak the Word of God, and this opens them up to scrutiny. Some scoff at the Church’s teachings, Scripture or the Traditions of the Church, but the priests must be first to defend against such attacks and mischaracterizations. They are each a public person.

Bishop Dewane reminded priests and faithful alike that Christ’s humility and courage, which all people are called to, ended in His glorious death. Therefore, attacks upon the Catholic Church and upon the faithful should not be surprising, since Christ’s death set a precedent for how His followers could expect to be treated, though not always to the same degree.

Silver Jubilarian Father George Ratzmann, who is Pastor of St. William Parish inNaples, was one of eight priests and five deacons to be recognized during the Mass and a later reception. He commented about how important the Chrism Mass is in connecting all generations to the Church and priesthood. Father Ratzmann was part of one of the first classes – including fellow Jubilarian Father Robert Mongiello and Father George Brennan, who died in 2011 — of men to be ordained in the Diocese of Venice in 1987.

“This celebration of unity is something that we all take pride in and celebrate, creating a bond between us and our Bishop,” Father Ratzmann said.

The Mass takes its name from the most eminent of the three holy oils that the Bishop commissions for use throughout the Diocese of Venice during the coming year. The sacred chrism is used at the ordination of priests and bishops, at baptisms, at confirmations, at the consecration of altars and the dedication of churches, during which the walls are marked with the sign of the cross, something often witnessed in this growing Diocese.

During the Mass, the Bishop consecrates the sacred chrism. Chrism is a sign in baptism that Christians are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ; and in confirmation that Christians receive the spiritual anointing of the Spirit which is given to them.

During the consecration, Bishop Dewane breathed on the sacred chrism “to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down” and said a prayer. The Bishop then invites all priests present to extend their hands toward the vessels containing the oil as the Bishop does the same and says the prayer of consecration.

As part of the consecration of the chrism, balsam is poured into the oil, which gives it a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity”; people and things marked with it, and by extension all of the faithful, are called to strive for sanctity.

He also blesses the oil of catechumens and oil of the sick. By the oil of the catechumens the effect of the baptismal exorcism is extended. By use of the oil of the sick, the sick receive a remedy for illness of mid and body so they may have strength to bear suffering and resist evil and obtain forgiveness of sins.

The sacred oils signify “an indelible mark placed on the soul on each of us at our Baptism and then throughout our life,” Bishop Dewane noted.

Included among the witnesses of the solemn ceremony were members of the Knights of Columbus and Ladies Auxiliary, Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, women and men religious and nearly 1,000 faithful, including approximately 200 students representing the schools from across the Diocese.

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