Bishop Burbidge celebrates Chrism Mass

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Perhaps no other Mass celebrated this year at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington has as great an impact on every parish in the diocese than the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass. Not only are the holy oils blessed and distributed to the far corners of the diocese, it is also the Mass where the priests gather to reaffirm their commitment to their Bishop and their priestly vocation.

"Christ has once and for all dispelled the power of darkness and even transformed suffering to glory and death to life.” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

 

“I just think it is a special time in the church,” said Sarah Foos, a parishioner of Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge, who has brought her 10 children to the Mass for the past six years. “They get to see where the oils come from and learn about the oils that are used during the year. They also really enjoy seeing all the priests they have known throughout the years.” 

More than 100 priests dressed in white vestments processed into the cathedral March 29. The Chrism Mass has a special significance for Father James C. Hudgins, pastor of St. Jude Church in Fredericksburg, and his parish community. The oil blessed at this Mass will be used to consecrate the altar and walls of  the new St. Jude Church during its dedication scheduled for July 14. 

“I know that this chrism will be used in a way that will set our church apart for the Lord for generations to come,” said Father Hudgins. “It symbolizes that everything we do in this building is set apart. It is where souls are brought to God and where God’s grace is reached.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge was the principal celebrant and homilist at his second Chrism Mass as the Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington. He was joined by Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde and Father Joseph Wittstock, abbot of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville.

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Fr. James C. Hudgins, pastor of St. Jude Church in Fredericksburg, collects the oils that will be used at his parish after the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington March 29. ASHLEIGH KASSOCK  | CATHOLIC HERALD

During Bishop Burbidge’s homily, he shared some of the questions he has received from the faithful for his new Walk Humbly podcast. Some of the questions are light-hearted such as, “Who will come out on top in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament?” When asked what his favorite diocesan event was so far, he said events that include a Eucharistic procession, such as the diocesan pilgrimage in Washington and the processions with young people at The University of Mary Washington and the Life is VERY Good rally.

“In a particular way, I think of the Eucharistic procession last year shortly after the horrific shootings in Alexandria,” said Bishop Burbidge. “That following Sunday, the priests and parishioners of St. Mary’s Basilica processed with our Eucharistic Lord through the streets near where the shooting occurred, but on the day of the procession there was calm, not chaos.”

At the end of the procession one of the parishioners said to Bishop Burbidge, “We did what is essential today. We brought Jesus to the streets where he is needed more than ever.” 

 

“It reminded me of another podcast question,” said Bishop Burbidge. “‘Bishop, what do we do in the midst of seeing so much darkness all around us?’ and I said, the first thing we have to do is to acknowledge it.  How can we not, upon seeing the violence and shootings in our schools, upon recalling the hatred and prejudice we witnessed in Charlottesville and other cities throughout our land, living in a land where we still fail to protect the unborn and all of human life and the dignity of each and every new person. But yet when we acknowledge the darkness, we do not despair, we turn to our faith … Christ has once and for all dispelled the power of darkness and even transformed suffering to glory and death to life.”

After the homily, the Bishop went before the priests gathered to ask them a series of questions to renew their commitment to priestly service.

“Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ Our Lord conferred his priesthood on his apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?”  The priests responded, “I am.”

Bishop Burbidge then blessed the oils. 

As in every diocesan church, the three oils will be used during sacraments and special blessings throughout the year. The oil of the catechumen will be used for those preparing to receive the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist; the oil of the sick will be used for the anointing of the sick; and the Sacred Chrism, a mixture of olive oil and balsam will be used for ordinations baptism and confirmation. 

During the Mass, Bishop Burbidge blessed the Chrism in a way that set this oil apart by breathing over it to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down. During the blessing of the Holy Chrism all the priests extended their right hand toward the oil until the end of the blessing.

The Chrism Mass is one of the chief expressions of the fullness of the Bishop’s priesthood and is looked at as a symbol of the close bond between the Bishop and his priests.

During his closing remarks, Bishop Burbidge asked those in attendance to pray for the five seminarians who will be ordained deacons June 2 and the those three deacons who will be ordained priests June 9. He also asked the faithful to congratulate Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde, who will celebrate his 30th anniversary as a bishop April 12.

After Mass, deacons helped transfer the oils into smaller containers for each parish for another year of graces received through the sacraments. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018