By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published March 28, 2013
ATLANTA—Some 170 priests of the Atlanta Archdiocese joined Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Bishop Luis R. Zarama for the Chrism Mass, celebrated March 26 at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
During the Mass held each year on the Tuesday of Holy Week, the archbishop blesses the oils used for the celebration of the sacraments in every church during the coming year, and priests renew the promises made at their ordination.
This year, with his ordination as a bishop approaching next week, Bishop-designate David P. Talley stood at the altar and read aloud and signed the profession of faith and the oath of fidelity, through which, with “great care and fidelity,” he takes on his new leadership role.
He bowed his head and then gestured with his hands for priests and the congregation to sit when they stood to applaud as he signed the final document. The three outward symbols he will receive as a bishop were also blessed: the miter, the ring and the crozier. They will be handed to him when he is ordained as Atlanta’s second auxiliary bishop on Easter Tuesday, April 2.
Priests and parishioners filled the pews of the Peachtree Road cathedral. From the choir loft, Cathedral Choir members sang the solemn liturgy.
For Terry Mullins, attending the Chrism Mass is a ritual that brings back memories of when he became a Catholic at St. Augustine Church, Covington.
“I entered the church two years ago, and it sort of became a tradition for me,” he said.
“I remember the smell of the oil on the night I was baptized on the Easter Vigil,” he said.
Jennifer Vincent, who worships at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, came at the invitation of a friend, Kim Schulman.
“I’m getting to know my faith a little better. (The Chrism Mass) seems just amazing,” she said before the liturgy began.
For Schulman, the Mass marks a special time as Holy Week moves along. She has attended the Mass seven times. She is always moved by the sight of so many priests gathered around the altar during the consecration of the Eucharist.
“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” she said.
Archbishop Gregory reminded the priests and congregation how life is filled with successes and disappointments, remarking on the “year of the Lord” promised by the prophet Isaiah.
“A year of the Lord will always be until the very end of time truthfully a cornucopia of blessings mixed in with a few sorrows,” he said.
As priests, there may be disappointment that projects do not go as hoped or their actions may have hurt others, he said. Isaiah’s promise never included “a year of limitless success,” but one “tempered, inspired, and governed by the ever-present grace of God that lasts longer than any of the troubles that may confront us,” he said.
The Chrism Mass also is an opportunity for the priests to renew their commitment to the priesthood and to the people of the local church, a point the archbishop made during his homily.
The promises may be new or made years ago, he said, but all priests renew them “hopefully fully aware of and deeply grateful for the many blessings that have come into our lives because of those sacred promises.”
For good ministry, supportive parishioners, “enthusiastic dreams and for steady dedication to the tasks we have undertaken,” God is to be thanked, he said.
And when faced with disappointment, the “year of favor” should “always include a desire to do better, to turn catastrophes into regeneration, to recommit ourselves to the tasks of our ministry even in the face of past calamities,” he said.
“May this next year be filled with more blessings than disappointments, with deeper pastoral zeal than personal setbacks, with a greater love than with trepidation so that the Lord’s promise will be found fulfilled in all of our lives.”
At this Mass, the archbishop blesses and consecrates chrism, a mixture of olive oil and balsam, which will be used for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders. The oil of catechumens for baptism and the oil of the sick for the sacrament of anointing of the sick are also blessed. Each parish in the archdiocese receives a portion of the blessed oils to use for the coming year. Three large vessels of oil were carried before the altar as the archbishop prayed over them, asking God to bless the oil and fill it with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The oils will be used “to comfort those who are sick and infirm, fortify those who are young,” Archbishop Gregory said. They will be important tools of priestly ministry and a “reminder of the Lord’s enduring presence.”