For The Dialog
DOVER – A joyous atmosphere reminiscent of a family reunion surrounded the Chrism Mass at Holy Cross Church on Monday, April 14, as Bishop Malooly blessed the oils, which will be used to baptize and confirm people in the faith and to anoint the sick in the coming year.
Toward the end of Mass Bishop Malooly commissioned delegates from each parish before dispatching them to receive a portion of the blessed oil to take back to their local church.
The Mass is always held in the diocese the Monday of Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.
More than 70 diocesan priests commemorated the institution of the priesthood, which the church traces to Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper, by renewing their vows before Bishop Malooly during the Mass. Since the priests will lead Holy Thursday liturgies for the Last Supper, the diocese has traditionally used the Chrism Mass as the time for them to celebrate their priesthood together.
Both before and after the Mass, Holy Cross parishioners greeted the pastors and priests formerly assigned to their parish to catch up with their friends.
“We wanted to see all the priests, and see the bishop,” said Jay Bais of St. Joseph’s in Middletown, who attended with his sixth-grade daughter Tanya.
“I wanted to see all the priests and deacons I’ve known for a long time,” said Tanya, who had helped carry the diocesan Pilgrimage Cross during an annual youth procession through parts of Wilmington two days earlier.
The blessing of the oil took on additional meaning for a contingent from Ss. Peter and Paul in Easton, Md., who came to Holy Cross for the second time this Lent. Seven of the group will be received into the church at the Easter Vigil Mass, said Rolando W. Perez, a member of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults team at Ss. Peter and Paul. At the beginning of Lent the seven also attended the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, also at Holy Cross, at which they acknowledged before Bishop Malooly their desire to fully enter the church.
Perez said it was helpful for the candidates to see the blessing of the oil with which they will be anointed as they enter the church.
The congregation included many people who had entered the church as adults in previous years, according to a showing of hands when Bishop Malooly asked how many had come into the church through the RCIA.
Their presence underscored the significance of the oil, which was separated into three large vases and blessed by the bishop for specific uses, primarily baptism, confirmation and anointing of the sick. Each vat was carried by two deacons of the class ordained in 2013, the diocese’s newest deacons, to the bishop for blessing.
Bishop Malooly, who celebrated his sixth Chrism Mass as Bishop of Wilmington, said it comes at a time of hope for him, citing the joyous example of Pope Francis and developments within the diocese, which includes Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. One of the signs of hope he cited came two days earlier, on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, when 800 young people “joyfully carried the cross” between five Wilmington churches.
“They are so positive and upbeat and filled with faith,” the bishop said.
Symbolically, the Pilgrimage Cross used in that April 12 march led the processions into and out of Holy Cross for the Chrism Mass.
The bishop focused on the joy of Holy Week and Easter and the message it sends to Catholics and the world. While the church on Holy Thursday commemorates the first Eucharist, it also focuses on the service Christians are called to provide to all people through the washing of one another’s feet. At the Last Supper Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
On Good Friday Catholics will recall Jesus’ suffering and death – and remember that his passion and death “give us new life.”
Then the church “will remember the joy of that first Easter,” Bishop Malooly said.
“It’s that joy that we are challenged to bring into our world, that Jesus suffered, died and was buried and rose again so we could celebrate eternal life.”