By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
Priests must never underestimate how essential their priesthood is for the life of the Church, Bishop McManus told them at the annual Chrism Mass Tuesday at St. Paul Cathedral.
He asked them to look around at their parishioners there, a small representation of all those they serve.
“You will do for these people what no one else can do,” he said. Only in the priest will they find the Father’s mercy in the sacrament of penance and the Bread of Life in the Eucharist.
Bishop McManus said that three very important actions happening at this celebration were his blessing of the oils to be used for sacraments, the priests renewing their priestly commitment and the priests concelebrating the Mass with him. Through the Eucharist priests are configured to the heart and mind of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, he said.
At this Mass the bishop traditionally recognizes priests celebrating significant jubilees. Bishop McManus started by announcing Bishop Rueger’s 30th anniversary of episcopal ordination. The clergy and congregation gave the retired auxiliary bishop lengthy applause, which ended in a standing ovation.
Among others participating in the Mass were Bishop Reilly, Abbot Damian Carr of St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer, and numerous priests, deacons and laity, including Catholic school students, as well as some religious.
After the Mass each year, representatives from parishes and other institutions throughout the diocese pick up the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens and the Holy Chrism which will be used for their people in the year ahead.
In his homily Bishop McManus linked priests to Christ, especially in being faithful and prophetic.
He spoke of renewal for the sake of a more forceful witness to the Gospel and said fidelity is at the heart of priestly renewal.
At their ordination, priests offer their lives to God forever, the bishop said. One definition of a priest is another Christ, and Christ was faithful to his Father, even to the point of going to the cross and suffering a horrible death, he said.
The fidelity of a priest is a loving, total, daily response, in freedom, to the fidelity of Christ, Bishop McManus said. He expressed hope that at this Mass he and his fellow priests would tell Christ again, “Here I am; send me.”
In the day’s Gospel (Lk 4:16-21), Jesus identified his mission as being prophetic, the bishop said. Christ’s proclamation of liberation was made manifest in his healing the sick, eating with the poor and raising the dead. But the greatest manifestation was on the cross, where he surrendered his spirit to the Father and set people free.
Today the priest, administering sacraments, continues the saving work of Christ, Bishop McManus said. He said there are challenges to priestly ministry, but the fidelity of Christ to priests is far greater.