By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Arms crossed tightly against their chests, siblings — Jorge, 11, Frankie, 10, and Selia, 8 — walked in the Communion line to receive a blessing during the Diocese of Davenport’s Chrism Mass on March 14 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
In less than two weeks the children of Jorge and Norma Landa Rodriguez will be baptized during the Easter Vigil Mass at their parish, Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace in Clinton. The parents wanted their children to witness Bishop Martin Amos bless the oil that will be used for their baptism and the baptism of individuals in parishes throughout the diocese, said Jorge Landa Rodriguez of the family’s first Chrism Mass. “When I walked in here I was so overwhelmed, I had tears in my eyes — good tears,” Norma said. Her prayers to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit were answered, and she was grateful. “I just wanted a sign that the Spirit is close to me.”
Many people in the pews, from children to senior citizens and clergy, too, found the Chrism Mass to be a moving experience. Every Mass is a celebration, but “today’s Eucharist is unique from other liturgies in two ways: the renewal of priestly promises and the blessings of the oils,” Bishop Martin Amos explained in his Chrism Mass homily. He blessed the oils, contained in large glass vessels, to be used in the sacramental life of the diocesan church: the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumen and the Sacred Chrism.
The oil of the sick is used to anoint those in the community who are seriously ill or infirm. They are united to the passion of Christ, granted strength, peace and courage, the forgiveness of sins and either the restoration of health or preparation for passing over to eternal life, Bishop Amos said.
The oil of the catechumens is used in infant baptism and in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to give wisdom and strength to those preparing for baptism.
The Sacred Chrism is used to anoint the head of the newly baptized, the forehead of the person confirmed, the head of a bishop at his consecration, the hands of the priest at his ordination and in the dedication of churches and altars.
Before the blessing of the oils the priests of the diocese renewed their priestly commitment, their voices reverberating in the cathedral. Seeing all those priests together in the cathedral, watching the bishop bless the oils to be distributed to every parish in the diocese and singing to God with 700 other people inspired Shirley Jean Bohr. “I could have died and gone to heaven right here!” A member of St. Joseph Parish in Wellman, Bohr attended the Chrism Mass with longtime friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners John and Cathy Conway.
Eighth-graders from St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt made the Chrism Mass part of their Year of Mercy pilgrimage.
A Trailways busload of Catholics from the Burlington/West Burlington area also attended the Chrism Mass. “The whole Mass was absolutely beautiful,” said Kay Kent of Ss. John & Paul Parish-Burlington. This is our second year in support of our priests,” added fellow parishioner Dorothy Deehring.
Father Bill Roush, ordained to the priesthood last May, cited the renewal of priestly promises as a Chrism Mass highlight for him. “It was actually getting to hear them. During ordination it’s so overwhelming. Here, we really got to absorb our promises.”
A widower who entered the priesthood later in life, he also appreciated “just being here and recognizing that I’m actually a priest. I’d said all through my discernment I’ll go through every door that is open to me, and if a door closes … but the doors never closed.”