Today is known in the Catholic world as Holy Thursday, sometimes in the English-speaking world it is called Maundy Thursday, and it commemorates that Thursday night long ago on the night Jesus Christ was betrayed, when he instituted the two sacraments without which his Church would not exist, the Holy Eucharist, and the sacrament of Holy Orders, specifically in the form of the sacred priesthood. He left his apostles, who were charged with carrying on the faith that he taught them and with handing it down, his own Body and Blood, and the example of service that is washing their feet. Tonight, many of us will see that act of service recreated or re-enacted, as it were, as part of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and some of us will participate in it.
Holy Thursday is often rightly called the birthday of the priesthood, and with good reason. Jesus left the apostles with everything they would need that night to celebrate the Eucharist, and he explained to them what it was that he was leaving them. Because Holy Thursday has such a strong tie to apostolic succession and to the priesthood, the custom of celebrating the Mass of Chrism has evolved over the centuries to be one that takes place on Holy Week, and traditionally it takes place on the morning of Holy Thursday. At this Mass, the bishop gathers with all of the priests of his diocese. Only those who are too ill or infirm to attend, have an emergency, or who are absent from the diocese ministering elsewhere are excused from attending. Many deacons also attend the Chrism Mass, and all of the People of God are both welcome and encouraged to attend this beautiful liturgy where the sacred Chrism used to seal with the Holy Spirit, as well as the other Holy Oils (the Oil of Catechumens, used to anoint the newly baptized, and the Oil of the Infirm, used to anoint the sick and the dying), are blessed for use for this year.
The bishop does have the authority to move the Chrism Mass to another time during Holy Week before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper if he believes that pastoral reasons might necessitate doing so, for example if he believes that more people might be able to attend the Chrism Mass and it becomes clear to him that more priests will be able to attend. In the Diocese of Knoxville, our Chrism Mass was held on this past Tuesday evening. For the benefit of those faithful who were unable to attend it, it is being reposted here courtesy of the Diocese of Knoxville and the technological skill of my brother candidate for the diaconate, Scott Maentz. I thought it was most appropriate that the Chrism Mass should be posted on Life at 25 on the traditional day for such a celebration.
My good friend Stephanie Richer posted a thanks on her blog The Digital Hairshirt this morning “in praise of worthy men,” the men of the priesthood. I know some of the priests that she lists, and I can certainly vouch for their “worthiness,” though I am sure that they would be the first to say that they are not worthy. I won’t go into the detail that Stephanie does, simply because I do not have the time to do it justice, but I will list a few of the priests who have had such a positive impact on my life.
Thank you Father Christian Rohmiller (RIP) for baptizing me and for setting me on the path to holiness. I am sorry that I am not quite there yet. You always said that whenever your cause for canonization is investigated, the Devil’s Advocate will bring up the fact that it was you who brought me into the Church.
Thank you Father Cy Middendorf, SM (RIP) for hearing my confessions both in the confessional and at the bar. When Father Cy called you “my buddy,” he meant it.
Thank you Father John Putka, SM, for taking the time to indulge a curious mind and a wandering soul. In no small part because you did this, I am a Catholic today.
Thank you Father Meinrad Brune, OSB for conferring my Oblation of St. Benedict on me, and continuing to put up with me for years, although you did not hear from me for the longest time…you did not give up on me.
Thank you Father Jay Flaherty (RIP) for witnessing Nicole and I confer the sacrament of Matrimony, and for your powerful and convicting homilies.
Thank you Monsignor Xavier Mankel, OP, V.G., for making Nicole and I feel welcome at Holy Ghost when we first came to Knoxville as husband and wife. We admittedly miss the place. You are, it must be said, a part of the reason why.
Thank you Father Joseph Hammond, CHS, for the quiet dignity that you displayed when you were pastor at St. Pat’s, and for recommending me for the diaconate formation program.
Thank you Bishop Stika for your holy example, and for accepting me into the same program that I might discern the Lord’s call.
Thank you Father Alex Waraksa for being a kind, charitable, and incredibly patient spiritual director for putting up with me…now for almost two years and two Chrism Masses!
Thank you Father Christian Mathis for your warm encouragement that I am not sure you realized you provided.
Thank you Father Erik Richtsteig for taking the time to break bread (or, as it was, slice pizza) and talk for four hours with me (in the presence of the aforementioned Mrs. Richer) when I had great need of encouragement.
Thank you Father Patrick Brownell for sharing your gift of preaching with the parish of St. Patrick. We have not had an opportunity to really get to know one another, but I am sure that will come, and I am praying for you.
I know I missed more than one good priest, and so if you were among them, consider yourself thanked.
If a priest has impacted your life through their ministry or their holiness, today is a good day to say thank you to them.