Bishop Malone's Chrism Mass Homily

Reprinted with permission, the text of Bishop Richard J. Malone's Chrism Mass homily, delivered at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo on March 27, 2018.

We gather for the Chrism Mass this year at a moment in our diocesan history when our Catholic community is in the throes of a crisis. Together, we are struggling to navigate through a storm - dark, unnerving, shocking, angering, faith-shaking. As much as we hate to think about it, the fact is that the past aberrant behavior of some of our priests - a few, in the big picture - long shrouded in darkness, has come into the light - thanks to the courage of one victim, Michael, who came forward and publicly disclosed his victimization. This revelation has triggered a series of other sad stories of trust betrayed and young people harmed.

After consultation with our Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Pastoral Council - and with their strong endorsement - I disclosed the names of 42 priests who are known to have abused children and young people. I made that decision for 3 reasons: for transparency; for the empowerment the truth gives victims to come forth so that we can help them; and for mitigation of risk of future incidents when past abuses are identified.

Our Catholic people are reeling, as are we priests, and understandably so. At the same time, I've received more support from both laity and brother priests than I can ever remember in 18 years as a bishop. I'm sure you have, as well, my brothers. We're in this together - all of us - lay, clergy and religious - who are the Church of Western New York. And especially we who are priests. I know from meetings with the victims - I met with two victims just yesterday - and from conversations with brother priests, who are angry and ashamed - I know the truth of Blessed - soon to be Saint - Oscar Romero's words: "There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried." Many of us know those tears. I do.

This is the current reality. So what about moving forward? The Chrism Mass, after all, is all about the future: blessing the sacramental oils that are the tools of our priestly ministry - for use in parishes from tonight until the next Chrism Mass in 2019. What we do here this evening is for the days, weeks and months ahead, as our people are anointed - as priests at Ordination, at Baptism and Confirmation, and in ministry to the sick and dying. As we do this, we recall that we priests, like Isaiah and Jesus, have been anointed ourselves to bring glad tidings, goods news, to our people. We heard these words in Jesus' inaugural homily in the Gospel today. We are anointed to do what Jesus did, what we are ordained and sent to do in His name, His person, His power: to herald the Gospel of Joy! And to serve our people well, as Jesus invites - indeed, commands us to do - we have the paradoxical grace in this crisis in our presbyterate, our Church, to be called to a higher standard, a more authentic integrity, a more transparent and radiant holiness. We have, right now, a graced opportunity to lift ourselves beyond tragedy to heroic heights. We have a chance to start afresh through, with and in Christ!

Listen to the words of St. John Paul II in his Holy Thursday letter to priests in 2002:

At this time... as priests we are personally and profoundly affected by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the world. Grave scandal is caused, with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice. As the Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations, all of us - conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace - are called to embrace the mysterium Crucis and to commit ourselves more fully to the search for holiness. We must beg God in his Providence to prompt a whole-hearted reawakening of those ideals of total self-giving to Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry.

Then Pope John Paul goes to the heart of the matter: "It is precisely our faith in Christ which gives us the strength to look trustingly to the future."

So, my wrap-up, final words to you, my brother priests - and you can all listen in - we will get through this dark time together if we keep our focus on Jesus Christ and nurture our relationship with Him, individually and as a community of priests! We must be firmly committed to growth in holiness. Every survey I have seen on what our good people most desire to see in us priests - and I just rechecked the data - lists as #1: spiritual depth! A personal relationship with God! They want kindness, yes, responsiveness, leadership - but nothing trumps - pardon the expression - our priestly holiness, our life of prayer.

And lastly, let's take good care of one another! Don't let a brother priest isolate. Reach out. Call. Send an email. Get together for lunch. And pray with and for one another. I pray for you every day. I offer Mass for you all every week. And I love you.

And this recipe is not just for us individually, but for the good of the Church. The Pre-Synodal meeting of 300 young representatives from around the world in preparation for the October Synod on Young People and Faith took place in Rome last week. Listen to one of their comments: "Today's young people are longing for an authentic Church. We want to say - especially to the hierarchy of the Church - that they should be a transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community. A credible Church is one which is not afraid to allow itself to be seen as vulnerable."

We all feel vulnerable now. As we walk the Way of the Cross this week, let's open ourselves, anew, as did Our Lord Jesus, to the saving grace of that vulnerability - the vulnerability of Jesus on the Cross! The vulnerability that makes us workers in the field hospital to which Pope Francis calls us. The vulnerability that will burst open into the radiant, healing glow of the Risen Lord! We are Easter People! Our horizon is always Resurrection!

 

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