The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday 26 March 2013. The Mass was concelebrated by the Auxiliary Bishops of Westminster and had over 300 priests and 1000 people from the Diocese of Westminster in attendance.
The Chrism Mass sees the blessing of the three Holy Oils: the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Blessing of the Sick and the Oil of Chrism. These are used during the sacraments. The blessing of the Holy Oils is one of the most ancient ceremonies in the Church. It is always celebrated in the Cathedral by the bishop surrounded by the priests, deacons, religious and lay people from his diocese.
During the Chrism Mass all priests make a renewal of their commitment to priestly service.
In his Homily, Archbishop Nichols reminded priests of their particular calling of service to be a witness to Christ and the importance of humility and renewal on occasions when they fail in this ministry:
“Through the action of the same Holy Spirit and drawing out from this common priesthood of the baptised, another line of priests is constituted in the Church, the lines of ordained priests who are here, gathered with me about this altar. The same Spirit of the Lord is given to us so that we may act in the life of the Church in the name of Christ its Head, serving you, the holy People of God, so that together we may indeed serve our God and Father and witness to his love, his truth and his goodness.
It is this work of the Holy Spirit in our ordination that we seek to renew today. And our renewal is sought in prayer and in humility. Just as the first words of Pope Francis were to ask for the prayers of the people of the Church, so too our request today is that you continue to support us priests with your love and prayers.
We need it. We priests, in a special way, are called to be faithful witnesses. Yet we fail. Sometimes our failure is spectacular. Sometimes it remains hidden from general view, known only by those who have been hurt. Yes, in every case our failure does harm to other people. That is why our request for your prayers is made in humility of heart and our seeking of renewal is coupled with our sorrow for our offences.”
Archbishop Nichols also drew attention in his Homily to the new phase the Catholic Church is entering with the recent election of Pope Francis. Archbishop Nichols reflected on the guidance for priests in their mission that can be taken from Pope Francis’s words:
“My brothers in the priesthood, my sisters and brothers in Christ, at the beginning of his Pontificate, and with refreshing directness, Pope Francis invites us to be renewed in simplicity, in which we demand and take much less for ourselves. He calls us to renewed compassion and tenderness, in which we live by the mercy of God.”
Further photographs of the Chrism Mass are available here.