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SOUTH END -- Priests from across the Archdiocese of Boston gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston to celebrate their priestly fraternity at the annual Chrism Mass, April 11, celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.
The Chrism Mass serves as a symbol of unity in dioceses throughout the world during Holy Week each year, as the local bishop blesses the sacred oils used to administer sacraments for the coming year.
During the Mass, the priests renewed their priestly vows and afterwards received the sacred oils -- the oil of catechumens, the oil of the infirm, and the sacred chrism -- for their parishes or ministries.
The renewal of vows, said Cardinal O'Malley in his homily, makes the liturgy "therapeutic."
"It heals and restores us. It allows us to relive the joy of our ordination day, when we were surrounded by parents and grandparents, siblings and friends," he said.
"Today, we gather with the family that Christ gives us, the Church, to renew our priestly commitment and bless the oils, the tools of our sacramental ministry," he continued.
The cardinal spoke about the priestly vocation, noting that "at our ordination ceremony, we made a gift of ourselves that's expressed in our commitment of celibacy, obedience, prayer, and communion."
In the Latin Church, he said, celibacy is a "special identification with Christ, Christ the Good Shepherd who is celibate, who is a virgin."
"There's a strong missionary dimension with celibacy," he continued, adding that it would be difficult to image the face of the Church today "if we had not had a host of men and women throughout the ages who renounced home, spouse, and children for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."
"The proclamation of the Gospel and the Church's mission in large part has rested on their shoulders," he continued.
He noted that celibacy has been and continues to be "pastorally so fruitful" in "your spiritual fatherhood, in your parishes, and in your ministries."
"The title father should be a constant reminder that we are called to be spiritual fathers, feeding our family with the word of God and the sacraments, helping people to live lives of discipleship with a sense of purpose, with the mission that Christ has entrusted to us," said the cardinal.
Obedience, he said, signifies a relationship, a singleness of purpose, and a dedication to mission.
"Obedience is a reflection of the priest's own fundamental identity, his relationship with his bishop and with his fellow priests in the presbyterate, and his freely chosen subordination of his own plans to the needs of the Church and the fulfillment of her evangelizing and unifying mission," Cardinal O'Malley said.
A life of prayer can have its challenges, but the renewal of priestly vows gives priests the opportunity to "begin anew."
Prayer, he said, is key to the vocation, and priests "are to be teachers of prayer, our people need to us to help them to grow in prayer."
"To do this, we must be men of prayer ourselves," he said.
Cardinal O'Malley also noted the importance of the sacred oils, calling them the tools of ministry, but focused in particular on the oil of the infirm.
In the Gospels, he said, Jesus' number one priority was ministering to the sick, and in our society today, one that has lost a sense of sin and a sense of urgency of salvation, there's a danger of losing sight of how important anointing the sick is.
In a world that advocates "suicide" and "euthanasia" as "pseudo-compassionate" responses to suffering, ministering to the sick is of vital importance.
"The world is offering poison, but you priests of God bring the Lord's medicine," said the cardinal.
When we think of people who voluntarily donate an organ to help those in need, we are filled with admiration, said the cardinal, and "today, I am filled with admiration for all of you."
"We thank our priests for being organ donors, for giving their hearts and their hands to Christ, so that the Good Shepherd may continue through their ministry to announce the good news of the Gospel and anoint God's people with the oil of gladness," he concluded.
Following the Mass, priests collected their oils before attending a luncheon with the cardinal at Cathedral High School.
Speaking to The Pilot at the lunch, Father Walter Carreiro, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Cambridge, said the cardinal's homily was "inspiring."
"He just has a command of preaching... it's always inspiring to me," he said.
The Chrism Mass, aside from the Easter Vigil, is the "high-point" of Holy Week, he said.
"It's always a joy to come to the Chrism Mass because we're with all our brother priests and we renew our priestly promises," said Father Carreiro.