By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Jordan Brown received an early 18th birthday present when he had the honor of delivering the first reading during the Davenport Diocese’s Chrism Mass on April 11.
His pastor at St. Mary Parish in West Point had asked him if he would be interested, and the senior at Holy Trinity High School in Fort Madison said he responded, “Of course I would.”
Brown said the experience of reading from Isaiah in front of a congregation of hundreds of people was a blessing that occurred two days before his birthday. “It was a surreal experience. Seeing all of those priests in one place was kind of an amazing thing.”
Dozens of priests concelebrated the Chrism Mass and renewed their commitment to priestly service, an affirmation of faith voiced in unison inside Sacred Heart Cathedral. They, along with deacons, deacon candidates and their spouses, women religious and lay people formed the one body of Christ, a community of believers who expressed appreciation for that unity in their singing, praying and celebration of Eucharist.
The one body of Christ was a central theme of the homily Bishop Martin Amos gave during the Mass at which he also blessed the oils of the Church: the oil of the sick, oil of the catechumen and sacred chrism.
“When St. Paul wanted to describe our intertwined relationships with each other and with the Lord he used a wonderful analogy: Christ is the head of the body and we are the members. We so easily say that we are part of the body of Christ,” the bishop said. “But, what a beautiful and apt image: without Christ, our head, we are nothing, but joined to Christ we are everything.”
The bishop borrowed from life’s everyday experiences to capture the image of Church: “Each part of our bodies has a share in the function of the whole body. If you have a headache, you feel miserable. If you exercise some muscles, your whole person feels good; so, too, the body of Christ.”
As different parts of the body, clergy and the lay faithful have their unique responsibilities. “What we are about to do today speaks volumes about who we are as Church and as individual members of Christ’s body.”
And then the bishop reflected with the congregation on the purpose, the symbolism of the oils to be blessed and consecrated at the Mass. With the blessing of the oil of the sick, he noted that “we all carry out the healing ministry:” some as doctors, nurses, therapists and aides; some as parents; some in their care for the environment; all of us in offering apologies and forgiveness; priests in giving of their time for communal reconciliation services, individual reconciliation and anointing of the sick, which brings comfort to the ill and their families.
The oil of the catechumens brings those to be anointed to a deeper understanding of the Gospel, helping them to accept the challenge of Christian living, and all of us to accept our call to evangelize the world. “Faith is not just what we believe; it is who we are as we live the Gospel in our family life, in the work we do, in civil life, in our relationship with one another,” Bishop Amos said.
The oil of catechumens serves as a reminder that parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith and of the importance of lay catechists, religion teachers, Bible study and prayer groups, Christian Experience Weekend teams and teams leading new members to the faith through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Bishop Amos addressed the priests specifically in his reflection on the oil of chrism, which is used to consecrate sacred places and things, the heads of the newly baptized, the foreheads of those confirmed, and the hands of the priest and the head of the bishop at their ordination. During the Chrism Mass, priests renew their commitment to priestly service.
“Soon, I will ask you if you are you resolved to imitate Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church, by teaching the Christian faith solely for the well-being of the people you were sent to serve,” the bishop said. He advised the priests to prepare with prayer and study for their homilies “so they speak to the hearts of our people.”
He concluded, “Every time we make the sign of the cross we are reminded who we are and whose we are. And for what purpose: to bring glad tidings, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”
After Mass, Msgr. Drake Shafer, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, praised the bishop’s homily. “I think it was so catechetical; it’s the bishop speaking to the whole diocese.”
The Chrism Mass was a “celebration of unity, of ministry, of the lay and ordained,” said Father David Steinle, pastor of Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington and St. Mary Parish in Dodgeville.
For Judy Steele, a member of Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, attending her first Chrism Mass, it was “very inspiring,” a renewal of faith and commitment.
“This is the fullness of the Church — the lay faithful, the presbyterate, gathered with their bishop,” said Father Scott Lemaster, pastor of Ss. Mary & Joseph Parish in Sugar Creek, Immaculate Conception Parish in Petersville, and Assumption & St. Patrick Parish in Charlotte.
Bishop Emeritus William Franklin noted: “the joy could not only be seen, it could be felt.”