Between Amens — Opportunities to be the face of Christ

Dr. Karen Shadle

One of the great blessings of pastoral ministry is the opportunity to be with people at some of life’s most important moments. 

Clergy and lay ministers alike often speak of the “highs” and “lows” as opportunities to be the face of Christ to others. They share in the excitement of a wedding, the joy of an infant baptism and the fervor of conversion to the faith. 

They are also there to receive the brokenness of the penitent, to grieve with families at a funeral and to shepherd the community through tragedy. The church is present to pray for and with people at these critically important times, be they happy or sad.

In the Office of Worship, we are preparing for perhaps our biggest and most important annual event: the Chrism Mass, at which the archbishop consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens, which will be used throughout the archdiocese in the coming year. Like the ministers of the church, the holy oils are often there to accent these critical, sacramental moments in a life — life that is brand new, life newly dedicated to God or life that is fragile and perhaps at its end.

The Chrism Mass is what is known as a “stational Mass” of the archbishop, meaning that he celebrates it in the cathedral, surrounded by his priests and the people of the archdiocese. According to the Ceremonial of Bishops, this gathering together of all the ministers is important because it “shows forth the unity of the local Church as well as the diversity of ministries exercised around the bishop and the Holy Eucharist.” 

The priests are brought together to concelebrate the Chrism Mass and to renew the promises of their priesthood “as witnesses and cooperators with their bishop,” who walk with the people of God through the ordinary and extraordinary moments in their journey of faith. 

Additionally, “as many of the faithful as possible should come together for a stational Mass,” because we, too, are cooperators in the church’s ministry and mission.

Whenever we celebrate the Chrism Mass, I recall the different scenarios in which the holy oils are used and am reminded of the highs and lows of ministry — the peaks and valleys of spiritual life that are marked by these people and these oils.

I invite you to join us — the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville, the archbishop and the priests and deacons of the archdiocese — for this special Mass on Tuesday evening of Holy Week, April 4, at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption. A reception will follow in the undercroft.

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