Chrism Mass 2019
A lot has happened in the Church and the world since the celebration of our last Chrism Mass. It would be an understatement to say that it’s been a difficult year, especially with the storms that erupted this past summer with the release of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania and the news of sins and crimes of an American cardinal, not to mention the revelations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy and the negligence of some bishops in other countries of the world. Anger, frustration and demands for accountability and transparency rightfully came to the fore. Some of the faithful chose to stop attending church and others chose to withdraw their financial support. Not knowing or ignoring the great strides of the Church in the United States these past 17 years in combatting this evil, the success of our efforts to protect our children and young people and the commitment to care for victims, many experienced a crisis of hope in the Catholic Church and its will or ability to reform. Some believe there is a culture of clericalism intrinsic to the institution; others that there is a homosexual culture in the clergy and seminaries that is allowed to thrive. This is the storm that broke out and, perhaps somewhat abated, continues to shake the barque of Peter, leading some to think that a shipwreck is coming and others to cry out – why is Jesus asleep in the boat?
And yet here we are this evening, gathered in faith and hope, at this Chrism Mass (with a full cathedral). And here our beloved priests are gathered this evening, not to forsake their priestly promises, but to renew them. Amid the storm, and perhaps shaken by the storm, we’ve all chosen to stay in the boat and not jump ship. We’re all disgusted by the sins and crimes of some priests and bishops. We’re all committed to build on the successful reforms of the past 17 years. We all recognize that ours is a Church of saints and sinners. And, as we do at every Mass, we began this evening with the penitential act, admitting that we are all sinners in need of redemption. We gather tonight, after all, during Holy Week, the week of our redemption.
As if the challenges within the Church were not enough, we celebrate this Mass and our priests renew their commitment at a time in history when there’s not only the need to persevere in hope amid the storm, but also to persevere in hope when there’s another big storm: what one author calls a tsunami, “the tsunami of secularism” that has been sweeping across the world. The future does not look bright in our country or in many other countries when it comes to support for our Christian values and teachings. Yet, here we have all these seminarians. I don’t think any one of them is approaching ordination with the belief that the life of a priest will become easier. They know that our values and beliefs will be even more countercultural. They know their vocation may be appreciated by some, but they know they mightonly be tolerated by others and most likely scorned by many. They will serve, as our priests now serve so faithfully and with such dedication, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They will promote self-giving love, service to others, chastity and obedience to God’s law, including the sanctity of all human life and of marriage. And like most faithful Catholics, they will be political exiles in this nation – because of their love and compassion for unborn children or because of their love and compassion for immigrants and refugees. They are not afraid to face the tsunami of secularism, its promotion of so-called “sexual freedom and reproductive rights,” its rejection of any objective moral truth and its exaltation of personal self