Priests called to be ‘men of communion’ at Chrism Mass

Cardinal O’Malley adds fragrant balsam to the oil during the Rite of Consecration of the Chrism during the March 18 Chrism Mass.. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

SOUTH BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley exhorted Boston priests to “be men of communion” at the Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week, March 18.

“What defines us is our connectedness to each other in this presbyterate. We are called to be priests, celebrating the sacraments,” he said in his homily. “Our ideal is to become men of communion.”

Each year, all of the priests in the Archdiocese of Boston are invited to the celebration, which traditionally has more concelebrants than any other Mass. This year, 400 priests gathered at Holy Cross Cathedral for the Chrism Mass ­-- at which the sacramental oils that will be used during baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and the anointing of the sick in the coming year are consecrated.

Also present were Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios and Bishop Emilio S. Allue, Bishop John P. Boles, Bishop Walter J. Edyvean and Bishop Robert F. Hennessey.

Cardinal O’Malley borrowed the term “men of communion” from Pope John Paul II’s “Pastores Dabo Vobis” and said that the word “koinonia,” Greek for communion, appears 20 times in the New Testament.

“We are called to koinonia with Christ and that koinonia is found especially in the Eucharist,” he said. “In the sacrament, above all, we find Christ and find communion with each other.”

Priests share an “intimate sacramental brotherhood,” he added.

Some priests go into “private practice,” forming tribes that are destructive to priestly fraternity, Cardinal O’Malley said.

“Without a shared vision, small groups of like-minded priests are left to battle over who has the right vision,” he said. “The pastoral theology of the Second Vatican Council must be our agenda, but not an overly personalized interpretation of the council that often leads to deep divisions among priests.”

As a presbyterate, priests must confront the attitudes that impede unity, including competition, clashing ecclesiologies and clerical envy. He also called on priests to be prophets of hope rather than prophets of doom.

“We must learn to encourage one another, to celebrate each others’ successes and recognize the gifts that each has received so that together we can build up the body of Christ,” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley shared the words that Father Daniel Kennedy, a newly ordained priest who died in January this year, told his father about his vocation; “I am going to be a priest, and I’m going to do it well.”

“We are Christ’s priests, and we are going to do it well,” the cardinal added. “We are going to do it together.”

Following the homily, the priests renewed their vows of priestly service, and then the names of priests who died this past year were read.

After Mass, the priests gathered for a luncheon at Bishop Peterson Hall where they and deacons filled vessels with the consecrated oils for use in their parishes and the seminary.

Each year, two priests are honored for their service to the archdiocese at the Chrism Mass luncheon. This year, Father James Lyons and Father Paul Keyes received the St. John Vianney Award and were given large wooden crucifixes.

Cardinal O’Malley said, “Every year when we have the task of looking at the recommendations to decide which fathers we are going to honor, it is always very encouraging to realize how wonderful, deserving and generous priests we have in our presbyterate.”

Father Lyons, in residence at St. Marguerite D’Youville Parish in Dracut, was ordained in 1960. Although he is retired, he keeps busy celebrating Mass, making hospital visits and bringing Communion to the homebound.

Addressing the luncheon gathering, Father Lyons said that at the Chrism Mass he looked around at his brother priests and noticed that he knows most of them by name. Priests share many of the same experiences, he said.

“What you do in your ministry, with your years, I have done in mine,” he said.

Father Keyes, ordained in 1963, recited Psalm 23, which he has prayed daily since his second grade public school teacher had the class memorize it.

“I believe, and I hope you believe that our goodness and our kindness to the people entrusted to our care will bring us as good shepherds to live in the house of God forever,” said Father Keyes, part of the team ministry at St. Michael Parish in North Andover.

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