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Priests, bishop meet to reaffirm ordination vows

by Alfredo E. Cardenas South Texas Catholic
May 1, 2012

More than 100 priests of the diocese joined Bisop Mulvey for the Chrism Mass at start of Holy Week. (Alfredo E. Cardenas, South Texas Catholic)
On April 3, Bishop Wm. Michael Mulvey celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at Corpus Christi Cathedral with more than 100 priests of the diocese present to renew the promises they made at their ordination. The bishop also blessed the oils used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed, baptized or ordained.

Speaking in the Cathedral filled with the faithful from throughout the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Bishop Mulvey reminded his brother priests that they had only the previous week begun to celebrate the diocese’s Centennial Jubilee and were sustained by “the strong faith of so many.” 

“We can acknowledge as well that there were moments in which faith was also fragile and less than exemplary.  Recognizing that our weak humanity remains a part of life, we recall the profound words in our preparation for Holy Communion at Mass, ‘Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’,” Bishop Mulvey said.

Each year throughout the Catholic Church, priests and bishops meet together as a presbyterate to confirm and reaffirm their personal and communal lives.  With the bishop, the priests renew the promises made at their ordination.

The name of the Mass is taken from the Chrism oil used to in the administration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders; in the consecration of churches, altars and altar-stones; and in the solemn blessing of bells. The oil is made from olive oil and balsam and must be blessed by the bishop.
Msgr. Michael Howell and Father Thomas Norris lead procession into the cathedral for Chrism Mass. (Alfredo Cardenas  South Texas Catholic)
The bishop also blessed the oil of the sick, which since Apostolic times has been used by priests to pray and to anoint the sick with oil in the name of Jesus. Finally, the bishop blessed the oil of catechumens used to anoint those who enter the Church. These oils will be used during the upcoming year throughout the diocese.

“We are not a people who witness or are saved on our own individual virtues—God help us if that were the case—but we are a communion of persons, a communion of priests, a communion of saints, who rely upon the witness of those who have gone before us, but also upon the faith, hope and love of those who stand with us and strengthen us each day through lives of prayer and service,” the bishop said in his homily.

Following is Bishop Mulvey’s entire homily.

Dear Brothers, each year throughout the Universal Church, priests and bishops meet together as a presbyterate to confirm and reaffirm the profound reality of their personal and communal existence.  Through baptism, they have entered into the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Through their priestly consecration, they are transformed, by Him, through a total gift of themselves in conformity to the One Priesthood.

In this Cathedral tonight, you have come to renew yourselves in the gift that was bestowed upon you at ordination.  You come to recommit yourselves to the personal call you received to be His priests.  With me, you come to rekindle our communal relationship with the very person who, through His Paschal Mystery, has called us to participate in His priestly life in public ministry.  As at the Last Supper, He is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him and, according to his New Commandment, with one another.

We have just embarked on the celebration of 100 years of faith as the Diocese of Corpus Christi.  We stand here today because of the strong faith of so many.  We can acknowledge as well that there were moments in which faith was also fragile and less than exemplary.  Recognizing that our weak humanity remains a part of life, we recall the profound words in our preparation for Holy Communion at Mass:  “Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church.” 
Father Alex Saenz from Sacred Heart Parish in Rockport and Father John Chavarria from St. Gertrude Parish in Kingsville (front) processing into   Corpus Christi Cathedral before Mass begins.(Alfredo Cardenas , South Texas Catholic)
We are not a people who witness or are saved on our own individual virtues (God help us if that were the case) but we are a communion of persons, a communion of priests, a communion of saints, who rely upon the witness of those who have gone before us, but also upon the faith, hope and love of those who stand with us and strengthen us each day through lives of prayer and service.  

“Set out into the deep” and “Be not afraid” were the decisive appeals proposed to us by Blessed John Paul II.  He was calling the Church to unfetter the ropes of strong certainty and triumphalism, so often associated with the Church, in order to rediscover as our sure and certain hope in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  

The Year of Faith, soon approaching, coupled with the call to a New Evangelization have this rediscovery as our first and primary challenge: to re-propose Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life for every man, woman, teenager and child.  This is our task together, my brother priests.  It is an arduous one, one that may, in many of our personal lives, cause us to examine our manner of life.  The task of proposing Jesus Christ will bring us to a new and fresh faith in Him and calling us to examine anew our reason for becoming and remaining a priest.  But, let us not be afraid! 

The motivation for our recommitment to Christ and his Church today need not be the same as when we came before the bishop on our day of ordination.  Grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit, continues to be at work in the silence of each of our lives.  God’s grace is the agent of our holiness.  

Although not always present to our consciousness, on the day of our ordination we were asked six questions which remain fundamental to both our royal and ministerial priesthoods.  

First we were asked if we were committed to be a fellow worker with the Order of Bishops.  

No doubt we all answered ‘yes’ (or we would not be here in this cathedral tonight).  The reality of this question and our response as a priest is often challenged as the ugly temptations of individualism and self-importance raise their heads deep within us.  It is no surprise that these temptations (individualism and selfishness) alive and well in our society, can challenge our call to be a man of communion and can weaken and dilutes the commitment we made.  

The Church is Communion - in the image of the Most Holy Trinity.  Our promise, dear brothers, is not a pledge to simply working together, but an obligation to penetrate into a communion of life and ministry with one another so that the promise of Jesus Christ can be realized among us and experienced by others:  “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there (present) in their midst.”  

The result of communion is consequently contagious:  “by this all will know that you are my disciples – by your love for one another.  Yes, my brothers, Communion is not an option for us now or in the future.  Communion is our identity in order to bring Jesus Christ to a world that is so yearning for Him.  Communion is fundamental to a New Evangelization.  Programs become ineffectual when communion is diminished or absent.  Therefore, tonight, dear brothers, let us recommit ourselves to be fellow workers and fellow disciples.  I pledge to you, as I did on the day of my Episcopal Ordination, to work with you in building up Communion, the presence of Christ among us; I ask you all to do likewise.

In a second question we were asked if we were ready to be true and faithful ministers of the Word of God.  Again we answered ‘yes’.  

The focus and centerpiece of the New Evangelization is the word of God.  I ask you to please give yourself to a silent, prayerful and active reading of the word, especially the Gospel.  St. Jerome reminds us, “Ignorance of the word is ignorance of Christ.”  We cannot give with conviction what we ourselves experience as alien or unfamiliar in our own lives.  Let us recommit ourselves tonight to live according to His word and to prepare well for every homily and proclamation of His word.  

Every renewal in the life of the Church has originated in a new love and attentiveness to the Word of God.  His words are our treasure; I cannot emphasis enough our need to re-open the treasure chest of the Word forsaking all false or alluring theories.  The temptation to be drawn to tantalizing messages and quick “fix” theories is alive in our culture.  Let us not fall prey to these decaying ideas, but find a new faith in Christ who is as alive in his word as He is in the Eucharist.  He is the Power and the Wisdom of God.

Thirdly, we were asked if we were resolved to celebrate the sacraments, the mysteries of Christ faithfully and with reverence.   Our love and personal devotion for the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood is paramount in calling others into a deeper union with his real presence in the Eucharist.  I ask you, brothers, to spend time in the presence of the Eucharist in your parishes in the presence of your parishioners.  People’s reverence for the Eucharist, I believe, will increase when they see us, not only men of compassion and caring, but also priests who are in love with the Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar.  We will only find this to be true if we practice it.  

Mentioned also in the third question was the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  As the sacrament of Penance is made more available in parishes, the reality of sin and a person’s need to be forgiven and be reconciled will become more obvious.  We, too, need this sacrament.  Administering any of the sacraments leads us to a familiarity with them.  Unfortunately, this familiarity can lead to the temptation to harden ourselves at the core of our being against their effectiveness as God’s grace working through these signs in our own lives.  The invitatory psalm of the Liturgy of the Hours each day reminds us of the response of the Israelites at Meriba and Massah as God’s work among them became “common”.  We will not harden our hearts, but have the heart and attitude of Christ, when we actively seek the Mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance.  A good penitent is a good confessor. 

In the fourth question, we were asked if we would pray without ceasing and unite our lives to Christ, the High Priest who offered himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice and with him consecrate ourselves to God for the salvation of all.  
My brothers, the wisdom of time and the wisdom of our personal journey will enlighten us that as a priest with the awareness that our life is not our own.  Our life is gift, a gift that is now gift for others.  To be a true priest it cannot be any other way. 

The temptation to stay shackled to the past certainties for security, to seek a spirit of triumphalism, to want to impose personal ideologies as the path for the Church’s future or to be self-seeking in ministry will only inhibit our own growth in the Lord and arrest the Father’s will to bring the Church to realize her true nature of communion at service of the New Evangelization for the good all of humanity.  

We are again reminded of the words of Blessed John Paul II at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium:   “To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God’s plan and respond to the world’s deepest yearnings (NMI #43). 

To assure that we would not fall prey to the devil’s work of spreading division and confusion in the Body of Christ thus diminishing Christ’s presence in the world, we were asked to make a promise in the hands of our ordaining bishop:  “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?”   In the saintly fervor of the ordination moment, this promise of respect and obedience may not have posed a challenge to us.  With the passing of time, however, and the demands of ministry, the challenges of the bishop’s decisions and requests and the inevitable differences of personality and opinion may have become a permanent or at best an occasional struggle. 

As your bishop, in my weak and fragile human person, I deserve no such respect or commitment from any of you.  But let us recall the meaning of this promise.  The true strength of the Church and the principal agent of her growth and spreading are unity and communion.  Standing with His Holiness Benedict XVI two weeks ago, I again realized, in a real way, that I belong to the Body of Christ, a reality that is greater than me, or even my own diocese bearing that same name.

The unity that can and must exist between you and me is the surest guarantee and most visible expression that we are the living Body of Christ.  Without this unity our ministry can easily fall into the hands of the one who wishes to remove Christ from the world’s memory and conscience.  

The ills caused by radical secularism today, dear brothers, can be diminished, if not cured, by our communion with Christ and the Church.  As your bishop, I ask for a renewal of your commitment tonight to a life of communion and unity: the sure foundation of the Kingdom of God and a future of hope.

Thank you for your dedicated ministry.  May the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, culminating with Easter the Day of Resurrection, be for you, your parishioners and family members the source of the joy and peace that only He can give us. 

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