Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Founding of Priesthood, Blesses Oils to Be Used in Sacraments

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tells priests gathered there is no greater gift that the Church can give than reconciliation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, yesterday celebrated a special Mass to commemorate the founding of the priesthood by Christ. The Mass, held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle was concelebrated with hundreds of priests from throughout the Archdiocese of Washington.

During the annual Mass held during Holy Week, the special oils used by all parishes in the archdiocese to administer the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick during the upcoming year were blessed and consecrated. The priests also renewed the promises made at their ordination of their commitment to Christ, to his Church and to priestly ministry during the Mass.

“All of you bear testimony to the importance of this Liturgy in which the sacred oils are blessed and we, priests, renew our pledge of service to Christ and his Church,” the cardinal told the priests gathered.

The cardinal spoke of an experience he had during Lent a few weeks ago when he was hearing confessions at the cathedral as part of The Light is ON for You initiative. He said he was reminded of a comment a priest made to him several years ago after he had heard confessions on a Wednesday night for almost three hours. “He said to me, ‘I realize this is why I became a priest.’”

The cardinal also recounted a Mass he celebrated at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility a week earlier. “I learned that there are residents there who have encountered the loving face of God simply because there was someone there to help them say they were sorry so that they could once again experience the embrace of God’s mercy…All of us know what it is like to be forgiven. And that forgiveness has to be expressed, visible.”

“You and I are called and have the extraordinarily beautiful responsibility of presenting the loving gaze of God’s mercy in the warm and welcoming face of the Church,” the cardinal told the priests. “People need to know that we care, as you so deeply do, and that we are listening, as we all try to do, and that the first words they hear will be of welcome.”

He spoke of Pope Francis, who, in his call to be a compassionate and merciful Church, tells us we have to go out and meet people where they are. “Our task is to journey with our people. Going out and meeting people who have drifted away will not be blessed with fruit if when we meet them we simply correct them, announce to them their failings and scold them for their past. There is always a time for correction but first comes the willingness to accompany them on a path that clearly directs them to the experience of God’s love all over again.”

Speaking of the Year of Mercy announced recently by Pope Francis, the cardinal said, “This time of experiencing God’s mercy begin first with us in our own hearts so that filled with the joy of renewed conversion, we might be able, all over again, to bring that loving face, that merciful gaze of God into the life of people who, for so many reasons, many times known only to them, and even then only partially, have simply not looked and seen that face of God that is the mercy, the forgiveness of the loving Father.”

“Apart from the Eucharist, there simply is no greater gift that the Church can give her people than the gift of reconciliation since, the deepest spiritual joy each of us can sense is the freedom from whatever would separate us from God and the restoration of our friendship with so loving and merciful a Father who receives each of us with all the forgiveness and love lavished upon the Prodigal Son,” the cardinal said.

As the priests renewed their priestly pledge of dedication, beginning another year of ministry, service and self-giving, the cardinal asked them to “simply thank God that we are asked and empowered to be the face of that mercy so that those who look to us see the gaze of God’s forgiveness.”

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

CONTACT: Chieko Noguchi
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