Cardiff Cathedral was a hive of activity yesterday as our Archbishop was joined by the clergy and faithful of the diocese for the annual Chrism Mass. Each year the diocese comes together at the cathedral to consecrate the oils to be used in the Sacraments over the course of the year and to give witness to and support our priests as they renew their ordination promises.
This year there was a particularly joyful tone to the celebration as Archbishop George Stack announced to all assembled the forthcoming ordinations in the summer. After a long dry spell of Vocations the fruits of the past few years are beginning to come to fruition as we will celebrate two priestly ordinations and two ordinations to the diaconate of men preparing for priesthood.
In his homily Archbishop George reflected upon the future ministry of our new priests in light of what the wider community perceive to be a shortage of priests.
“The real shortage we face is a shortage of people. Congregations are decreasing … These new priests will have to minister in changing and challenging circumstances – not least in an age and culture which at times tries to airbrush faith out of the picture and at other times is hostile to the implications of religion”. (Archbishop George Stack)
The Archbishop reflected that the indifference of the world to faith is nothing new and can be found in the shifts of the people we meet in the Holy Week narrative. Our new priests face the task of working to foster within the faithful, especially within those who do not come to church, a recognition and a spirit of the common priesthood of all the baptised as symbolized by the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of Chrism.
“The Oil of Baptism reminding us that life is brought to its fullness in union with Christ through Baptism. The Oil of the Sick, which through which the hand of Christ and the prayer of the Church reaches out to heal broken body and spirit. The Oil of Chrism which signifies that each member of God’s People is anointed to be prophet, priest and king with all that means”. (Archbishop George Stack)
The oils were presented for blessing to the Archbishop by representatives of those who care for the sick, those who teach on the journey of faith, and by those preparing for reception of Sacraments. They are the future to which we look with hope even in the midst of apathy and despair.
Leaving the Chrism Mass left everyone in no doubt that whilst we face challenges within the Church, especially the challenge of numbers …. the model left for us in the Holy Week encounter leave us with one thought “Hold on, this is not the end”.