A man prays April 11 in the moments before the start of the Chrism Mass. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
A man prays April 11 in the moments before the start of the Chrism Mass. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Resplendent liturgical music, 150 priests in matching vestments and a cathedral full of the lay faithful made the April 11 Chrism Mass one of the most consequential Catholic moments in western Oregon in the past two years.

At the annual liturgy, curtailed in 2020 and 2021, priests convene for fellowship and to collect the vials of oil they will use to baptize new Catholics and bless the sick. From this single Mass, sacramental graces flow all over the region.

“What a glorious sight this is,” said Archbishop Alexander Sample. “I feel nothing but pure joy to see the Body of Christ gathered as one.”

Worshippers come to get a sense of the entire church with bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful on hand.

Elena Myre of St. Michael Parish in downtown Portland said the Chrism Mass is her favorite liturgy of the year.

“Unity is very evident here,” said Myre, who attended with a large group of young adults. “It’s neat to be here with the whole church.”

Nate and Jamie Snell, a married couple who attend both St. Rose of Lima and St. Michael parishes in Portland, became Catholic last year and appreciated the cohesion on display at the Chrism Mass after living with splintering in their former Christian community.

“The Catholic Church drew us in with its centuries of unity,” said Nate.

“We are healed by the unity of this hierarchy,” Jamie added

In his homily, the archbishop highlighted one of the phrases from the prophet Isaiah Jesus read in the synagogue as a mission announcement: “to heal the broken-hearted.”

“This is good news to all of us,” the archbishop said, citing contemporary troubles like the pandemic, division and war. “The paschal mystery is all about Christ who has come to heal us.”

The archbishop urged listeners to say to themselves, “Christ has come for us, he’s come for me. I am sick. I am a sinner. Thank you for coming for me.”

He told priests that they participate in the healing ministries of Christ in a profound sacramental way. During the night, the men renewed their priestly promises.

Father Dick Rossman, a longtime pastor who is now in residence at St. Mary Parish in Shaw, said the Chrism Mass is a good time to be with other priests and the archbishop to work on building unity.

Horns, timpani, organ and a large choir led by Angela Westhoff-Johnson guided the congregation in sung prayer, including Michael John Trotta’s “Totus tuus,” translated “I belong to you entirely,” which left several worshippers wiping their eyes. The priests’ male voices boomed in the cathedral for each song.

edl@catholicsentinel.org