Holy Week 2020 – Chrism Mass
Priesthood and Covid-19.
“Navigating unchartered waters”.
Dear brothers in Christ,
We have become accustomed to Sat Nav to guide us to unfamiliar places. Like maps of old, someone had gone before and travelled the ground or sailed the waters to alert us to the hazards that might threaten our safe travel.
With Covid-19 no such map exists. We navigate unchartered waters. The unknown is immeasurable at this stage. A strong sense of caution and anxiety is understandable.
As we seek to serve those entrusted to our care a sense of confidence on our part is called for. It is a confidence that has been forged in our ministry up to now. It is founded on our assurance of Christ’s presence to us and His promise not to abandon us in our time of peril and fear. It is the fruit of our heartfelt prayer “Let your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you”.
Over these past weeks, and most likely for some time to come, we serve “from a distance” as it were from people. It has been a necessary physical separation which represents a deep concern for people’s safety and health in the face of this lethal threat to the community. This physical divide, while painful and deeply regrettable, in no manner represents a lack of concern or compassion for the suffering and ordeal in many families.
I commend you for the personal outreach that you have made. Many have, through the use of technology, made ongoing connection with people in need. Various systems have enabled deep bonds of prayer to be established and sustained. This is the veritable sailing in unchartered waters. I commend the creativity and imagination that has come to the fore.
Covid-19 and the restriction that it has placed on us as priests and on society as a whole has moved many to re-consider our priorities in life. This review is happening while many are in shock with the impact of the virus among us. It is probably too early for us all to see what we can learn from this experience. It is after all unchartered water!
This evening we celebrate the Chrism Mass. It is usually a joyful diocesan gathering of priests, religious and the faithful. It will not be so this year. Yet we hope to celebrate the Blessing of the Oils and mark the Renewal of Promises by the presbyterate of the diocese with a “noble simplicity”.
The Renewal of Priestly Promises is for each of us a profoundly personal re-commitment of our lives to continue to be instruments and agents of God’s grace in peoples lives. It is also a moment of thanksgiving for the graces we have received as we ask the Lord to bless us with the grace of fidelity.
The Blessing of the Oils is a tangible expression of our priestly ministry to people from the beginning of life’s journey with Baptism to its end with Viaticum and the Sacrament of the Sick. These days of the threat of contagion by the invisible yet deadly virus has
reminded us sharply of life’s fragility and of our need for spiritual nourishment and guidance. We are grateful to God for the great graces we receive from the sacramental life of the Church.
On this annual celebration we acknowledge and celebrate with those, who this year, are marking a jubilee of their ordination. Regrettably due to circumstance just one can be with us and he represents all jubilarians this evening. Fr. Tom McDermott our Administrator here in St. Colman’s Cathedral.
The others marking their jubilee this year are:
We thank them for their fidelity and generosity to so many across the decades. In them, many have been richly blessed.
Because our current experience is so unusual due to its restraints it also has afforded us an opportunity to look at our ministry as priests through a new lens. Just as in other areas of life people have been pressed to focus on the essentials in life, so too in our ministry we are invited by dent of circumstance to focus on the vital components of our service to people. I invite you to consider not just this period of “lockdown” but beyond it. The coming time will be an opportunity to sit down with people in our parishes and talk frankly about what we have learned from the experience of Covid-19. God willing it will be an opportunity to renew and rekindle the embers of faith and prayer in people’s lives.
Dear brothers in Christ, I hope and pray with and for you in your lives and ministry in these unusual times. I pray we will use this time well to show and express our care for those of all ages as they meet the challenges of Covid-19.
May the Joy and Peace of Easter be yours.