The holy oils to be used for sacraments this year across western Oregon have been blessed, poured and delivered.
As Holy Week began, hundreds of Catholic faithful, Religious and clergy gathered at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the annual Chrism Mass. It was also a night to celebrate priesthood near the anniversary of when Jesus made priests of his apostles before his Passion.
The Gospel reading from Luke included Jesus' announcement of his mission from the words of the prophet Isaiah: "to bring glad tidings to the poor . . . to proclaim liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free."
During his homily, delivered with scores of priests sitting behind him and a cathedral full of worshipers in front of him, Archbishop Alexander Sample said the reading is not just about the past, but reflects what Jesus does today. He said everyone has a role to play in the Body of Christ that still carries out the mission.
Turning to look priests in the eye, the archbishop said that the sacred oils will connect him to them as they anoint the sick and baptize new Catholics as part of Christ's work.
"This oil is, in a sense, an oil of communion," he said, saying that he feels "deeply humbled" to be shepherd and brother to the corps of clergy who serve from Astoria to Ashland.
Explaining that he was preaching to himself as much as to anyone, he urged priests to deepen their spiritual lives.
"We must know Jesus intimately," he said, saying the people want to know that their priests are "connected to the Lord."
Priests renewed their ordination day promises and the archbishop urged the faithful to pray for priests, encourage them and understand their weaknesses.
"None of us is perfect," he said.
Chaplains from Providence Health and Services presented the oil of the sick. Those entering the church this year from St. Henry in Gresham brought up the oil of catechumens, used for those preparing to be baptized. The cathedral's Catholics-to-be and Rev. Mr. Francisco Bringuela, scheduled to become a priest this year, brought up the sacred chrism that will be used in his ordination and for baptisms.
Priests enjoy the Chrism Mass as a time to see each other at leisure, which is rare. They have dinner with the archbishop before entering the cathedral.
A grateful Benedictine Father Philip Waibel, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Mount Angel, summed it up like this: "The fraternity of the priesthood is made manifest at the meal we share and at the liturgy we share later."