At the annual Chrism Mass, at St. Joseph Cathedral Tuesday, Bishop Richard Malone told hundreds in attendance that the Catholic community is in the throes of crisis, but that it presents what he called a "graced opportunity to lift ourselves beyond tragedy and to heroic heights."
The powerful homily, which drew a standing ovation, came one week after the Diocese of Buffalo released a list of 42 priests who, over the course of seventy years, were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. The list also included deceased priests with more than one allegation made against them.
"Together we are struggling to navigate through a storm; dark, unnerving, shocking, angering and for many faith-straining," said Bishop Malone. "The past behavior of some of our priests, long shrouded in darkness, has come into the light. We have the grace in this crisis to be called now to an even higher standard, a more authentic integrity, a more transparent and radiant holiness."
The bishop made reference to the symbolism of starting fresh at the Chrism Mass with the blessing of oils. Following the Mass, priests, deacons, religious and laity from the eight counties of Western New York bring the oils back to their parishes, hospitals and universities throughout the year.
The oil of catechumens is used to bless those who are about to be baptized. The oil of chrism is used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. The oil of the sick is used in the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick. They express the vital link of each sacrament to the priesthood, especially the High Priesthood of the Bishop, the center and sign of unity of each Diocese.
"I have received more support from both laity and brother priests than I can ever remember in 18 years as a bishop. We're in this together, all of us," said Bishop Malone, who added that all priests may be feeling a sense of vulnerability right now. "This kind of vulnerability will burst open into the radiant, healing glow of the risen Lord. We are, after all, Easter people and our horizon is always resurrection.
After the Blessing of Oils and Consecration of Chrism, about six catechumens who are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, at the upcoming Easter Vigil Mass, left the Chrism Mass for a time of reflection on the scripture readings. They were accompanied by ministers of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Holy week continues in all parishes. At St. Joseph Cathedral, Holy Thursday will be observed with a Mass of the Lord's Supper at 7 p.m. Good Friday includes a Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at noon. There is an Easter Vigil Saturday at 8 p.m. Easter Sunday masses will be celebrated at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.