On Wednesday 28th April, Bishop Declan was joined in a packed Clifton cathedral by the priests and faithful of the diocese to celebrate the Chrism Mass.
Bishop Declan blessed the three oils — the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick and holy chrism which will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year.
Bishop Declan spoke in his Homily as we celebrate this Mass of the Oils, the Mass of Chrism, the Blessing of the Oils and the oils themselves they tell us something of the mission of the Church, tell us something about who we are as Gods people – what we are called to be and what we are called to do.
You can read Bishop Declan’s Homily below and listen to it on the right of this page.
You can also see the pictures from the Mass below.
Bishop Declan’s Homily – Chrism Mass
As you know throughout this year we have been, as a diocese, reflecting upon what it means that the Church has a mission and we have been doing it very much through the Gospel of St Mark which we have reflected upon every Sunday and will continue to do so. But as we celebrate this Mass of the Oils today, this Mass of Chrism, the Blessing of the Oils and the oils themselves tell us something of the mission of the Church, tell us something about who we are as Gods people – what we are called to be and what we are called to do.
The Oil of Chrism which will be placed here and consecrated reminds us that, through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we are invited to be members of the Body of Christ. And as we are invited to be members of the Body of Christ, not just at the beginning of life but throughout our life, we are strengthened by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit has been given to us because we are an anointed people. The Spirit of God is given to us so that, through our lives both individually and as parish and religious communities, as organisations and schools in our diocese, we can reflect and bring to people the goodness of God. That is what we are called to do – to bring into our lives and into the lives of others the goodness of God. And that means we have to open ourselves to encounter the Lord’s presence with us. And the Lord is truly present with us, and that is what we celebrate every time we celebrate the Eucharist and the other Sacraments in the life of the Church: the presence of a God who loves us.
The Oil of Chrism is used in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation and is also used in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. And today I’d like to thank the priests of our diocese for the ministry they carry out within the life of our diocese – a ministry that requires sacrifice and, above all, a way of love.
Pope Francis is always reminding us that as priests in any diocese, we should not suffer clericalism, we should give our lives as service, as service of all and imitate the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep by the power of the Holy Spirit to the Father, who leads the sheep into the kingdom of God, who has the smell of the sheep. As I’ve said before, I’m not always sure that is a good phrase… but there we are! It’s what Pope Francis uses.
The ministry of the diocesan priest has varied according to the needs of the time. The Church historian, Judith Champ, points out that at the time of the Reformation the priest was very much a missioner, very much carried out and lived his ministry alone, apart from other priests. And as time went on and as the Church became more established, the ministry of the priest became, as Judith Champ puts it, the builder – the builder of schools, the builder of Churches, the builder of parishes, the fundraiser. Today we are living in a changing world, and in a changing world we are a changing church adapting to proclaim the Word of God to the people of our day, and it may well be that we exercise our ministry again as priests in a different way. That’s something which we, as priests of the diocese, will be reflecting upon next month.
But as we come to celebrate the Mass of the Oils we will then bring to this table, the Oil of Catechumens; those who are preparing for baptism, those who will be baptised this Easter within our parish communities. And it’s a reminder to all of us that we are called to bear witness to Christ, to bear witness to the Gospel. I recently was talking to a young man who was brought up as an agnostic – he’s in his twenties – and he was saying to me that he needs something to believe, someone to believe if he is to have quality of life. And he met some people who were Catholics and saw within their lives the joy of the Gospel and he is attracted to the Gospel; he’s still looking – he has yet still has to commit himself. But his story illustrates for us that unless we have the joy of the Gospel in our lives, the Gospel will not be attractive to others. There must be a sense of joy and peace within our own lives if we are to bring that joy and peace into the lives of others. And it is in the ordinary things of life, in the ordinary places we find ourselves, as Jesus found himself in the Gospel today. He went to the synagogue as he usually did, the places where we usually live, we usually work, where we usually recreate – these are the places into which we are called to bring the goodness of God; these are the places where we are called to be an attractive people because we have allowed the joy of the Gospel, the joy of Christ, to penetrate our lives.
And to this table, we bring the Oil of the Sick and it’s a reminder to us that the Church must be a place of healing. The Church has a mission to heal. We open ourselves to the presence of God’s healing so that the Lord may be at work within us, and transfer us and transform us to heal. The Church must be a place where everyone finds a home: everyone – whatever age they are, whatever culture, whatever ethnic origins they have – the Church is a place for all. The Church is a place, above all, for those who live on the margins of society. And perhaps one of the things that we have become more aware of recently in our own diocese as in other dioceses, are those people who are very vulnerable through trafficking. The Church has a mission towards those, to be aware of those who are suffering through being trafficked and to see what can be done to rescue them from a modern form of slavery.
The Spirit of the Lord has been given to us. He has anointed us to proclaim the Good News. What is the Good News? The Good News is what we sang of in the psalm: I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord; of your faithfulness for ever. We proclaim, we live, because God loves us. God is faithful to us. Love God and do what you will. That is the message that we bring to our world, to our society, to the places in which we live and work, that every person created by God, in the image and likeness of God, is loved by God. The God who is love comes to visit the lives of all of us. We as a Church are called to be a Sacrament, a sign of the presence of God’s love in our world today. So as we celebrate this Triduum that we are approaching, it is a time for us to stop, to pause and to open ourselves more to the mystery of the God who loves us, to God who went to the cross and refused to come down, because the God we believe in is a God who is not violent; a God of healing, a God of love, a God who anoints us to be proclaimers of the Gospel; a God who in proclaiming the Gospel enables us to be a people of joy. We are a people, as our diocesan ‘theme’ goes for the next few years, we are people with a future that is full of hope, and our hope is not in ourselves; our hope is in the God who loves us and is faithful to us.