“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever.” These words from the Book of Revelation, proclaimed in the second reading, express our joyful praise of Christ at this Chrism Mass. This liturgy, like every liturgy we celebrate, is an act of divine worship, in which we offer praise and thanksgiving to the One who loves us has freed us from our sins by His Precious Blood. We are able to do so because Christ has made us priests for His God and Father. At our Baptism and Confirmation, we were anointed with sacred Chrism, anointed with the Holy Spirit, consecrated to be a holy priesthood. We received a sacramental character, a seal, by which we share in Christ’s priesthood. This seal is indelible. It remains forever as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church.
The Chrism that I will consecrate at this Mass will be used to anoint many people in our diocese in this coming year, to anoint babies after their Baptism, and to anoint young people and adults at their Confirmation. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they will be initiated into Christ’s Kingdom. They will be consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.
At the Chrism Mass, the Church highlights in a special way those members of the holy priesthood of Christ whom God has chosen and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders. They too were anointed with the sacred chrism at Baptism and Confirmation so we can call our priests “our brothers in Christ.” But they received another consecration of the Holy Spirit which enables them to act in the person of Christ the Head, for the service of all the members of the Church. Their hands were anointed with the sacred chrism at their priestly ordination. In the Church, they represent Christ the Good Shepherd and High Priest. And so they are called “father,” since in their ministry, they are called, like Jesus, to reveal the Father’s love in all they say and do. We give thanks that the chrism that will be consecrated at this Mass will be used this year to anoint the hands of two new priests for our diocese and two new priests for the Congregation of Holy Cross.
At the Chrism Mass, our priests renew their priestly promises. They express their resolve to follow Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls. As I was reflecting on this priestly promise, I thought about a priest who was an alumnus of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, ordained in 1963 for the Diocese of Oklahoma City. This coming September, he will become the first U.S. born priest and the first U.S. born martyr to be beatified. As many of you may already know, his name is Father Stanley Rother.
At this Mass, I wish to hold Father Rother up to our priests as a model for them, not because I anticipate any of them suffering martyrdom, at least not in the strict sense of being killed for their witness to Christ. But his witness can inspire us. My brother priests, Father Stanley Rother was in many ways an ordinary priest like you and me. I think we can relate to him, his joys and his sorrows, and his struggles and sacrifices.
Father Stanley grew up in a devout German Catholic family on a farm in rural Oklahoma. He struggled in the seminary and, after failing his first year of theology, was sent to Mount Saint Mary’s. He did well at the Mount. He was great at manual labor and quite often visited the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on the mountain above the seminary. He would pray and do manual work there. In fact, he helped to make the Grotto’s rock wall. And he did a lot better in his studies at the Mount.