St. Patrick's R. C. Parish

Established in 1841 at Carbonear, Newfoundland, Canada

Chrism Mass 2006

Bishop Currie's Homily

SINCE OUR DIOCESE WAS FOUNDED 150 YEARS AGO, THE PRIESTS HAVE GATHERED WITH THEIR BISHOP AND THE FAITHFUL FOR THE BLESSING AND CONSECRATION OF THE HOLY OILS. EACH YEAR THE SCRIPTURE FROM LUKE’S GOSPEL IS READ AND WE HEAR THE WORDS, "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HAD ANOINTED ME TO BRING GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR." AS HE ROLLED UP THE SCROLL HE SAID, "TODAY THESE WORDS ARE FULFILLED EVEN AS YOU LISTEN."

THE OILS THAT HAVE BEEN BLESSED OVER THE YEARS, IN HARBOUR GRACE OR GRAND FALLS AND TONIGHT HERE IN CARBONEAR, HAVE TRAVELLED FROM THE PLACE OF BLESSING ON BOAT, BY DOG TEAMS, BY TRAIN, BY CAR, BY BOAT. THEY HAVE REACHED ALL THE PARISHES IN THE BAY AREA, CENTRAL, UP THE COAST TO THE GREAT NORTHERN AND DOWN TO THE COAST OF LABRADOR. WITH THE OIL OF CHRISM, CHILDREN WERE BAPTIZED IN CATHEDRALS AND PARISH CHURCHES AND, AT TIMES, IN PRIVATE HOMES AND EMERGENCIES IN HOSPITALS. OVER THE YEARS BISHOPS MADE JOURNEYS TO CONFIRM THE BAPTIZED. THE OIL OF THE SICK HAS BROUGHT HEALING AND COMFORT TO SICK IN HOSPITALS, THE SICK AT HOME, AND EVEN TO SOME POOR FISHERMAN IN A TILT ON THE COAST OF LABRADOR.

BY BAPTISM ALL BECOME GOD’S HOLY PEOPLE, GOD’S PRIESTLY PEOPLE BECAUSE BY BAPTISM WE ARE PRIESTS, PROPHETS, AND KINGS. THE MINISTRIES THAT THE BAPTIZED CARRY OUT ARE MANY. MINISTERS OF COMMUNION, MINISTERS OF THE WORD, TEACHERS OF RELIGION, MINISTERS OF MUSIC, CARING FOR THE POOR, AS A MEMBER OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL SOCIETIES, AND BRINGING COMMUNION TO THE SICK. I WANT TO ASSURE ALL OF THE LAY PEOPLE THAT THE SERVICE YOU GIVE TO GOD’S PEOPLE IS GREATLY APPRECIATED AND WITHOUT YOUR HELP THE TASK OF THE PRIEST WOULD BE MUCH MORE DIFFICULT. AND WE THINK OF FATHER JAMES BROWN, THE FIRST PRIEST TO BE ORDAINED IN NEWFOUNDLAND. IT TOOK PLACE HERE IN CARBONEAR ON JANUARY 19, 1857.

IF YOU WILL PERMIT ME AT THE MASS OF CHRISM, THIS SPECIAL DAY FOR PRIESTS, I WILL SPEAK TO THE PRIESTS. I SPEAK TO THE PRIESTS NOT BECAUSE PRIESTS ARE NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE BUT BECAUSE BY ORDINATION PRIESTS ARE DIFFERENT.

AS JESUS LIVED OUT HIS LIFE BRINGING GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR AND GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS PEOPLE, WE PRIESTS ARE CALLED TO DO THE SAME.

BY OUR ORDINATION THE DECREE ON THE LIFE OF MINISTERS STATES, "THE ONE ORDAINED SHARES IN THE AUTHORITY BY WHICH CHRIST HIMSELF BUILDS UP, SANCTIFIES, AND RULES HIS BODY, THEREFORE - THE SACRADOTAL OFFICE IS CONFERRED BY A SPECIAL SACRAMENT THROUGH WHICH PRIESTS, BY THE ANOINTING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, ARE MARKED WITH A SPECIAL CHARACTER AND ARE SO CONFIGURED TO CHRIST THE PRIEST THAT THEY CAN ACT IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST THE HEAD."

IF THE PRIEST IDENTIFIES WITH JESUS THE PRIEST AT THE SUPPER TABLE, HE MUST ALSO IDENTIFY WITH THE SUFFERING VICTIMS OF CALVARY TOO. LIKE JESUS HIMSELF, THE PRIEST IS CALLED TO BE PRIEST AND VICTIM. WHEN WE CELEBRATE WE HOLD IN OUR HANDS THE SACRED VICTIM OF OUR SALVATION. WE MUST NOT BE AFRAID OF THE VERY PERSONAL AND VERY MYSTERIOUS COMMITMENT - MARKED BY SELF-DENIAL AND INSPIRED BY LOVE WHICH GOD ASKS US TO MAKE SO THAT WE CAN EXERCISE OUR PRIESTHOOD PROPERLY AND FREELY. THE PRIEST WHO BLESSES, BREAKS AND SHARES THE BODY OF CHRIST MUST BE WILLING TO BREAK HIS OWN BODY SO THAT HE CAN BE LIFE-GIVING LIKE CHRIST HIMSELF. FOR 150 YEARS OUR DIOCESE HAS BEEN SERVED BY GREAT MEN, MANY WHO SACRIFICED AND SUFFERED. IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE PROVINCE, THE PRIESTS FROM IRELAND WORKED UNDER DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES. THEY WERE CONSIDERED OUTLAWS AND COULD BE PUNISHED OR EXPELLED FOR CELEBRATING MASS AND THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR HOUSE OR FISH STAGE FOR THE MASS RISKED BEING FINED OR HAVING IT BURNT TO THE GROUND. MANY OF THE EARLIEST PRIESTS LIVED IN ISOLATION AND MADE LONG PERILOUS JOURNEYS BY BOAT, DOG TEAM BUT MOST OFTEN BY BOAT AND WE THINK OF FATHER PHELAN WHO WENT TO A WATERY GRAVE ON THE CLIFFS OF BACCALIEU.

WE THINK OF FATHER STEPHEN WHELAN WHO DIED ALONE AT 46 YEARS OF AGE IN LABRADOR OR FATHER O’BRIEN FONDLY CALLED FATHER WHITEHEAD BY THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE OF LABRADOR TO WHO HE MINISTERED ALONG WITH THE FISHING FAMILIES FOR 26 SUMMERS.

PRIESTS I HAVE MET HAVE TOLD ME STORIES. FATHER LEO BURKE, THE LAST PRIEST TO LIVE IN TRINITY, TOLD ME HOW HE WOULD SPLIT THE WOOD AND MAKE SPLITS AND CARRY WATER TO CARE FOR THE HOUSEKEEPER. THEN WITH A LUNCH IN HIS POCKET, HE WOULD CATCH A TRAIN AT MIDNIGHT TO GO TO OTHER MISSIONS AND BECAUSE OF THE FAST HE COULDN’T EAT UNTIL AFTER HE HAD CELEBRATED MASS OR FATHER EDDIE WALSH IN CONCHE WHO WENT ON A DOG TEAM TO VISIT A SICK MAN AND BECAUSE OF THE BLIZZARDS AND DRIFTS NEVER GOT BACK HOME FOR TWO WEEKS. YES, TIMES HAVE CHANGED.

A FEW YEARS AGO, ST. JOHN VIANNEY WAS PRESENTED TO US AS A MODEL FOR PRIESTS TODAY. JOHN PAUL II REMINDED US THAT THE SAINTLY PRIEST WAS CONSUMED BY THE DESIRE TO CONVERT HIS PARISH AND RESCUE THE PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS AND FROM THEIR HALF-HEARTED PRACTICE. HIS PRAYER WAS:

"O MY GOD, GRANT ME THE CONVERSION AT MY PARISH. I CONSENT TO SUFFER WHATEVER YOU WISH FOR AS LONG AS I LIVE."

THESE ARE UNINTELLIGIBLE WORDS FOR A SOCIETY AND CULTURE THAT KEEPS TELLING US THAT HAPPINESS IS ONLY A SWALLOW AWAY. BUT, IF WE ARE TO IMITATE WHAT WE HOLD IN OUR HANDS, WE ALL NEED TO LEARN THE MEANING AND VALUE OF SUFFERING. NOT IN A KIND OF MORBID WAY BUT THE WAY THE MARATHON RUNNER KNOWS THAT THERE IS NO GAIN WITHOUT PAIN. THE WAY WE KNOW THAT THERE IS NO EASTER WITHOUT CALVARY, THERE IS NO JOY IN THE PRIESTHOOD, (OR IN ANYTHING ELSE REALLY) WITHOUT THE WILLINGNESS TO ENDURE THE PAINFUL EFFORT AND PAY THE COST OF ACHIEVEMENT.

TODAY WE DON’T HAVE THE SAME DEMANDS BUT IT CAN BE DIFFICULT AND PRIESTS MUST SACRIFICE AND SUFFER. THERE IS OFTEN PAIN BECAUSE OF THE SINS OF A FEW THAT WE CELIBATE MEN LIVING IN A SEX-SATURATED WORLD FIND OURSELVES UNDER SUSPICION. THE LACK OF RESPONSE OF THE FAITHFUL WHO DO NOT FEEL THE NEED TO WORSHIP IS PAINFUL WHEN SO MUCH EFFORT AND ENERGY HAS BEEN EXPENDED. THE CASUAL WAY THE PEOPLE REJECT THE VALUES OF THE CHURCH AND ACCEPT AND TOLERATE THE SECULAR VALUES. YES IT CAN BE HURTFUL.

AS WE RENEW OUR PRIESTLY COMMITMENT TODAY, LET US BE AWARE OF WHAT WE DO, IMITATE WHAT WE CELEBRATE.

WHEN I SPEAK TO YOU MEN ABOUT SACRIFICE, I AM EMBARRASSED BECAUSE I SEE AMONG YOU BETTER PRIESTS AND PASTORS AND MORE GENEROUS SERVANTS THAN I AM. BUT EVEN IF YOU HAVE LET JESUS DOWN THREE TIMES IN ONE NIGHT, LIKE PETER DID, LET US TRY TO STAY WITH HIM UNTIL THAT LOVING GLANCE MEETS OUR STONY HEARTS AND STRENGTHENS US TO SUPPORT OUR BROTHERS ON THE JOURNEY. EACH FOR EACH AND ALL FOR ALL.