Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Chrism Mass Marking the Founding of the Priesthood

Sacred oils to be used for celebration of sacraments in coming year blessed and hundreds of archdiocesan priests renewed their ordination vows

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle was filled with priests, seminarians and consecrated men and women on Monday evening as Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated the Chrism Mass. Joining the cardinal in celebrating the Mass were Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop-emeritus of Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, and the auxiliary bishops of Washington, Bishop Barry Knestout, Bishop Mario Dorsonville, and Bishop-elect Roy Campbell.

The Chrism Mass is celebrated annually during Holy Week and the sacred oils used by all parishes in the archdiocese over the next year for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick are blessed. Also during the Mass, the priests of the archdiocese renewed the promises made at their ordination, reaffirming their commitment to Christ, to His Church and to priestly ministry.

Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the significance of the priesthood throughout his homily. Recalling a homily Pope Francis gave on the beauty of being a priest, Cardinal Wuerl explained that there are three great wonders of Jesus’ priesthood: he offered his life for us, he continues even now to pray for each of us, and will come again to take us with him.

“Pope Francis tells us Jesus offered his life for us once and for all. One of the promises the priest makes at his ordination is to unite himself as close as possible to Christ the High Priest who died on the cross for our salvation. In this way, the priest is to recognize his own self-giving, his own self-offering,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

Candidates for priesthood prostrate themselves at ordination to symbolize their total self-giving, the cardinal continued. “The awareness of our identity is essential to our mission. Just as Jesus identified himself as the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world so, too, must each of us identify ourselves.”

Jesus is our reference point, the one that disciples of God choose to follow, hear and love, said Cardinal Wuerl. “Our union with him becomes then the source of our confidence. To the extent that we are one with Christ and seek to mirror him and his actions in our life, to that extent do we find the confidence of our own identity.”

The mission of priesthood is best understood through the sacrifice of the Mass, when priests carry out their ministries, and act as mediators between Jesus and the Church. “He is the Pontifex, the bridge between the sacred and temporal,” said the cardinal.

“Never is a priest more the presence of Jesus – the icon of Christ – than when he stands at the altar to make present once again for us and for our salvation the sacramental representation of the death and resurrection of Christ in the Eucharist,” the cardinal said. He explained that it is during the Mass that the veil separating us from eternity parts slightly and we are able to share in the death and the resurrection of Christ, made present in his Body and Blood.

“Just as the Father is rich in mercy, so are we to be founts of that healing compassion that springs from the side of Jesus on the cross and flows through the life, history and ministry of the Church.  It is now our turn to continue that life-giving and healing action.”

It is not always easy to preach the Gospel in today’s world, Cardinal Wuerl reflected, but priests should trust the Holy Spirit and rejoice in their calling to bring Christ to others. “We rejoice in the proclamation of God’s kingdom coming to be now but realizing it will only reach its fullness in the life to come.” Priests are immersed in the challenges of the New Evangelization that the Church faces today, the cardinal said as be concluded his homily, but also in the joyful witness and compassionate teaching that are the hallmarks of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

“Let us always be open to the gift of the Holy Spirit…Let us always hold deep in our hearts an awareness of our communion with Christ. Thus, this evening, we can renew, once again with the same joy, resolve and zeal we did the first time, our response to God’s loving and challenging call.”