By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — “Gather the people! Enter the feast! All are invited, the greatest and least. The banquet is ready, now to be shared” sang adults and youths with enthusiasm during the processional hymn of the Chrism Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Two by two, deacons and then priests from throughout the Davenport Diocese processed to the front of the church — altogether approximately 85 clergy, including Bishop Martin Amos who presided at the Mass on March 23.
About 20 eighth-graders from St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt who will be confirmed next month by Bishop Amos were among several-hundred people attending the Chrism Mass. They were amazed at what they experienced: hearing the voices of 68 priests praying the prayer of consecration; watching Bishop Amos bless three large containers of holy oils; listening to the organ and choir and the bishop’s homily that emphasized the connectedness of parishes to the diocese and the diocese to the universal church.
They were not alone in their amazement. Geri Henninger of Bettendorf described the Mass as “a foretaste of heaven!” She was also thrilled to watch her great nephew, Cole Sinclair, 16, of St. Patrick Parish in Melrose, as an altar server. Cole’s dad, Tony, said he appreciated seeing all of the priests gathered and knowing that the oils blessed during the Chrism Mass would go to parishes throughout the diocese.
An annual celebration of faith, unity and commitment, the Chrism Mass brings together the priests, deacons and bishops and lay people of the diocese. During this Mass, Bishop Amos blesses the oils used in the sacramental life of the diocesan Church: the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumen and the Sacred Chrism. Also during the Chrism Mass, the priests of the diocese renew their priestly commitment.
“Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?” Bishop Amos asked his priests.
“I am,” their voices echoed through the cathedral.
Following the priests’ renewal of commitment to priestly service, several representatives from throughout the diocese, in turn, asked the bishop to bless the oils.
In his homily, Bishop Amos shared how the aroma of Chrism stirs memories for him; memories of a baptism, a confirmation, ordination or the consecrating of an altar. “The deep truth of whatever happened then, is with me now. It is a part of who I am.”
With the blessing of oil of the sick, “we also remember that we are called to the margins, to be with those who are sick and frail, with those who are dying and with those who mourn,” the bishop said. With the blessing of oil of catechumens, “we also remember that “it is God who saves; this is a gift we cannot earn” and that “we are not alone as we face the challenges of living our Christian vocation, our call to holiness … we are given the ongoing support of God’s people, the church.”
With the consecration of sacred chrism, “we also remember that we are a royal people … called to live as children of the King; a prophetic people … called to share the Good News of Jesus, to evangelize; a priestly people … called to offer ourselves as bread, broken for the life of the world.”
Lola Blaser, eighth-grade Confirmation teacher at St. Joseph in DeWitt, said she’s been bringing her students to the Chrism Mass for 10 years or more. “I like for them to see what connects us to the universal church.”
They got the message. “I thought it was amazing how all the priests come together at one Mass,” said eighth-grader Drew Kueter. “When they were consecrating (the bread and wine) you could hear the priests whispering the words … the echo of it,” said eighth-grader Hope Petersen.
“It’s a wonderful example of the universality of the church as we gather around our bishop,” observed Father William Reynolds, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton. “The bishop’s homily inspired me in terms of the holy oils coursing through the body of the church, just as blood courses through our bodies,” Fr. Reynolds added.
“It’s always such a joy to get together as a diocesan church,” said Deacon Joe Dvorak, parish life coordinator at Immaculate Conception Parish in Colfax. “That’s what it’s all about: communion.”