Bishop Martin Amos, retired bishop of Davenport, Iowa and a former priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, celebrated a private, livestreamed chrism Mass on April 7 from the empty Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland. Faithful from across the eight-county Catholic Diocese of Cleveland – and beyond – saw the liturgy live while others watched it later on the diocesan website.
Concelebrants were Father Donald Oleksiak, diocesan administrator; Father Dan Schlegel, vicar for clergy and religious; Father Sean Ralph, cathedral rector; Father John Manning, delegate for senior priests; and Father Arnel Lagman, cathedral parochial vicar.
Bishop Amos said the chrism Mass is a special liturgy and he was pleased to be able to celebrate it. During this Mass, which traditionally takes place on the Tuesday of Holy Week in the Diocese of Cleveland, the sacred oils that will be used for sacramental purposes throughout the diocese are blessed. It also celebrates the priesthood and members of the presbyterate renew their priestly promises.
Normally, hundreds of priests, as well as deacons, seminarians, religious sisters and the faithful attend the liturgy and fill the cathedral nearly to capacity. However, this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, in accordance with the extended stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine, the Mass was celebrated privately.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah talks about the priesthood, referring to priests as “ministers of God” and noting that he made a lasting covenant with them.
The second reading, from Revelation, talks about God being the alpha and the omega, the one who is, who was and who is tom come – the almighty.
In his homily, Bishop Amos shared words from the blessing of the oils and explained the purpose of each. The oil of the sick is used for anointing of the sick and dying, uniting them with Christ. He said we also remember their caregivers, including doctors, nurses, those who bring the Eucharist to the ill, those who sing at funeral Masses, those who visit the ill and the priests who care for their spiritual needs.
“We remember, too, that our mortal bodies are limited and finite. We will die, but death will not have the final word; victory belongs to the Alpha and the Omega,” he said, echoing the words from the second reading.
The oil of catechumens is used for anointing those who are entering the Church, Bishop Amos explained. In the blessing of that oil, we are reminded that we were redeemed by God. “He calls us, he washes us clean, calls us into the family of the Church and to the kingdom,” the bishop said.
The way is built from living stones, Bishop Amos said, “which reminds us that we need to be a welcoming Church."
The chrism is used for anointing at baptism, confirmation and ordinations. “We are a priestly people called to praise and thanksgiving,” the bishop said. “We are called to be holy.”
He said God reminds us that “I am with you at the beginning of life, through the challenges and struggles, at the end and all the challenges in between.”
After the homily, he asked all priests who were watching the liturgy to stand and renew their priestly promises with him.
“Pray for your priests that the Lord may pour out his gifts to them and keep them faithful. Pray also for me that I may be pure to the apostolic office entrusted to me,” Bishop Amos said.
The oils were blessed individually during the latter part of the Mas, beginning with the oil of the sick. Father Oleksiak raised the container filled with the oil, which them was blessed by the bishop. Next was the oil of the catechumens, and finally, the oil of holy chrism.
“Bless this mingling of fragrance and oil,” Bishop Amos said as he blessed the chrism and mixed it with the oil, stirring it with a long glass rod.
The Mass concluded with a blessing and the celebrants processed from the altar to the sacristy.
The next Holy Week liturgy will be the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which will be livestreamed at 4 p.m. on Holy Thursday, April 9 from the cathedral. Father Oleksiak will be the celebrant and Father Schlegel will be the homilist.
On Good Friday, Stations of the Cross will be broadcast at noon and the Passion of the Lord will be livestreamed at 3 p.m. with Father Oleksiak as celebrant and Father Ralph preaching.
The Easter Vigil will be celebrated at 7:30 p.m. on Holy Saturday, April 11, with Father Oleksiak as celebrant and Father Manning as homilist.
Father Oleksiak also will celebrate a livestreamed Mass at 9:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday, April 12.
The livestreamed Holy Week liturgies -- which all take place at the cathedral -- are private and can be watched live on the diocesan website or viewed later on demand.