Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Chrism Mass Brings Blessings To Priests, Parishioners

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published April 20, 2006

Each year, on the Tuesday of Holy Week, the Cathedral of Christ the King becomes a sea of white vestments as the priests of the archdiocese fill the pews for the Chrism Mass.

On April 11, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the annual Mass, during which he blessed the oils to be used for the administration of the sacraments during the coming year. He was joined by more than 160 priests of the archdiocese, as well as Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue.

Catholic faithful from across the archdiocese packed the Cathedral for the Mass, filling the pews and standing in the vestibule and along the walls. As the priests processed in, two by two, many waved and smiled at familiar parishioners.

Catholic school students offered the readings in both English and in Spanish.

In his homily, Archbishop Gregory spoke of the penetrating power of oil, which, he said, has the ability to loosen even the most stubborn, rusty or corroded materials. That quality is not lost on the Church’s ritual use of oil.

“Using the very natural ability of oil, the Church blesses it and bestows upon oil its spiritual and transforming grace. Each year we gather in this Cathedral Church to bless a new measure of oil,” he said. “Using the ancient prayer of the Church, we beg God to bestow upon this ordinary lubricant His extraordinary grace and energy.”

In addressing his brother priests, Archbishop Gregory touched on the difficult times the Church has faced in the past few years, referring to the sex abuse scandals, and looked to the future with hope.

“My dear brothers, we have become the unwelcome focus of the Church’s and indeed the world’s attention during these past several years,” he said. “We have been in the intense glare of the media’s attention all too often and for all the wrong reasons. We have been judged and for some condemned as people who are so hopelessly broken and severely damaged to the point where some believe that we may not be able to be fixed, salvaged, or renewed. They are, all of them, most certainly wrong.”

The priesthood, he said, is a “treasure that continues to sanctify the world, shed light in the shadowy corners of human society, bring comfort to the broken-hearted, and offer hope to those who languish in sorrow.”

He spoke affectionately and highly of the priests of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, whom he has come to know and to love.

“You offer yourselves—heart, mind and body—along with the Lord Jesus so that this sacrifice is ageless and always reflective of the Christ’s perfect offering. As I have come to know you and love you, I can in all honesty say that I have never found such a wonderful group, a more loving group, a more generous group of priests than those who serve the Church in North Georgia,” he said.

The archbishop encouraged the priests to seek support among each other and to find the unity that binds them together as brothers and colleagues.

“If there is a sadness to the events of the recent past, it is clearly summarized in the distance that may have developed between bishops and priests,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Our sinful mistakes have caused us to be less than loving, less than trusting, less than connected to one another in Christ.

“True priestly unity is not in any fashion clericalism that ultimately seeks privilege, entitlement, preferential treatment. Only those who are truly poor have a preferential treatment in the heart of the Church,” he continued. “We priests must grow ever closer to each other because in doing so we grow closer to Christ Himself whose Priesthood is the very source of the unity that we share.”

Archbishop Gregory ended with a prayer that the priests of the archdiocese may become more like the vessels that contain the sacred oils.

“May the oils touch our lives and penetrate our very way of being so that all the transforming power and force of the blessed oils may continue to work their conversions in the hearts of those who consecrate, use, and then bring them to your home communities and all for the greater honor and glory of God.”

Following the homily, the priests stood and renewed their commitment to the priesthood and their bishop.

The archbishop also asked the congregation to pray for him and for the other priests.

The procession of the oils followed as three large silver urns containing the oil of the catechumens, the oil of the sick and the chrism were brought to the altar.

The archbishop first blessed the oil of the sick, used in the sacrament of anointing to bring comfort and healing, and then the oil of the catechumens, used to prepare them for baptism. Lastly, he prepared, consecrated and blessed the chrism, which is used to anoint the newly baptized, seal candidates for confirmation and anoint the hands of priests at ordination. It is also used to anoint and dedicate new churches and altars.

The many priests then joined the archbishop in the sanctuary, filling it to capacity for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Maureen Dunn, who works at St. Joseph School in Marietta, said that the Mass was especially poignant, as her 29-year-old nephew had recently died.

“It just really meant a lot to see all of the priests up there. I see that, and I think of the community of saints. Those are our leaders,” she said. “And this Mass enriches them so they can bring that back to us.”

The Mass also meant a great deal to Father Neil Herlihy, a parochial vicar at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Ordained last May, Father Herlihy was moved by the many laypeople who attended the Chrism Mass.

“It reminded me of the great privilege and responsibility it is to be a priest. I feel so blessed to be a servant of the Lord,” he said. “To feel all the support from the people just affirms my vocation.”

“I want to give my very best as a priest, and it’s so easy to do when the people are so responsive,” he said. “It really is just a joy to get up in the morning to serve them.”