By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

The oils that church parishes, hospitals, prisons and other agencies in the Diocese of Baton Rouge will use during the next year in their revitalizing work of the church were sent out with a blessing and the breath of the Holy Spirit at the annual Chrism Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge on April 17. 

 

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Bishop Michael G. Duca breathes over the vessels containing the oil of the sick, catechumens and Chrism, symbolizing the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate this oil, at the Chrism Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral on April 17. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator  

 

Bishop Michael G. Duca began his homily by pointing out that the most important foundation of the church are the people of God, the clergy and bishops gathered around the altar of God with his word and the Holy Spirit.  

“Let us remember always that foundation … we can travel lightly that way,” said Bishop Duca.  

He also reminded the congregation “to reflect upon the priesthood in our midst.”  

All people share in the one priesthood of Jesus, said the bishop.  

“A priest, we know, is one who sacrifices,” said Bishop Duca.  

In the Old Testament times, the temple priests would offer sacrifices of bullocks, lambs and fruit of the vine as gifts to God, he said.  

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Bishop Duca blesses the representatives of church parishes, hospitals, prisons and other agencies before distributing the oils they brought back to their respective places.  

 

“But Jesus does not want those gifts. He wants a gift of a transformed heart,” said Bishop Duca. “He wants a heart that is pure serving the poor, welcoming the stranger, freeing the prisoner. He wants us to sacrifice our lives to God just as he did on the cross.”  

In every Mass, Bishop Duca said, “We join ourselves with that one sacrifice of Jesus. We offer the gift of bread and wine. To God it is not just wine and bread. We offer the gift of ourselves to the Father. And as we die with him he returns the gifts to us as his own body and blood. Filling us with his presence to become the body of Christ.” 

To express his unity with the priests and deacons throughout the diocese who were present, Bishop Duca turned to them and addressed them about their unique vocation.  

 “We talk about the importance of closeness, but it’s even more important than that,” said Bishop Duca. “It’s an attitude of being approachable … of being willing to get close to that which is most difficult and hard sometimes. To get close enough, to be vulnerable enough to love.”  

He referred to the Gospel story of the wedding at Cana when Mary told Jesus the wedding party had run out of wine, and he replied that his hour had not yet come.  

“I imagine their eyes must have locked,” mused Bishop Duca. He noted there was a silence, but as with any people who are close, there was no need for words. Mary then told the wedding attendants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.” 

“We are called to that closeness … but to God first in prayer,” said Bishop Duca.  

Even in the midst of tiring, frustrating days, he added. 

The bishop also referred to Jesus’ conversation with St. Peter after the resurrection in which Jesus asked him “Do you love me?” three times. The bishop said in his own personal reflection it was a three-time call to a deeper level of love, which enabled St. Peter to sacrifice his own life for Jesus.  

Bishop Duca encouraged the priests to have that closeness with the Lord to help them die to self and find unity with “their fellow brothers in ordination” and God’s people. 

Following the renewal of priestly promises by the priests, the oils of the sick, catechumens and chrism were brought forth to be blessed by the bishop.  

At the conclusion of Mass, the oils were distributed to representatives from the church parishes, hospitals, prison ministry and other agencies.  

As the recessional hymn “Church of God, Elect and Glorious” resounded throughout the cathedral and bells pealed, people poured out of the church and greeted each other with laughter and hugs.  

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Priests throughout the Diocese of Baton Rouge renew their priestly vows before Bishop Duca.