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Bishop Denis’ Homily from the Chrism Mass 2019

Words of welcome:

I am delighted to welcome the huge numbers of priests and lay faithful from our 56 parishes that together make up the family that is Kildare & Leighlin. Especially welcome as ever, Bishop Jim.

Tonight, we see the diocese in its completeness: priests, religious, deacons and lay people together, especially people who bring the tapestry woven by many ministries into their lives.

Ministers of the Word; Ministers of Holy Communion; Sacristans; Altar Servers; Collectors & Stewards; Baptism Teams; Bereavement Teams; Choirs; Liturgy Groups; Parish Pastoral Councils; Finance Committees – all who contribute immensely to the life of our parishes and by extension the story of our diocese.

This evening’s Chrism Mass takes its name from the consecration of the Chrism Oil later in the liturgy – Oil that will be used during the next twelve months, in tandom with the sacramental rhythm of life.

Oil that will be used even on those yet unborn as they are welcomed into the Christian family in baptism. Oil that will be used with the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and on pilgrimages. Oil that will be used during Confirmation liturgies, at Ordination ceremonies and at the rededication of altars and churches.

In addition to the oils, tonight is about words, words expressed in the renewal of priestly promises, in the presence of parishioners, family & friends. Tonight, we say thanks for the dedicated service and commitment of our priests, many of whom have had to adjust hugely in their lifetime to a changing cultural landscape and pastoral reality.

So dear friends, members of our diocesan family, in this Holy of Weeks, on this sacred night, let us acknowledge our sins, and so, prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries …


I recall this day nine years ago in vivid detail. April 15th, 2010 – it was the day that Volcanic Ash from an eruption in Iceland led to the closure of airspace over most of Europe. Every flight in Ireland was suspended that day. For the airports across Europe it was much worse than last years ‘Beast from the East’.

My mother was only twice ever on a plane. Both journeys to Lourdes in France. The photograph of both of us in Lourdes, taken near the Grotto, has pride of place in my hall-stand at Bishop’s House.

Mamma couldn’t get her head around this volcanic ash lark! How could ash spewing continuously from some unpronounceable volcano in Iceland (Eyjafjallajokull) suspend all European flights?

Mind you it didn’t stop her flight that Thursday morning in April 2010. She slipped into eternity, passport stamped by the life she lived, shortly after her volcanic ash puzzlement. Nine years in eternity this night.

We gather tonight, nine years later as a diocesan family who has been digging deeper these past weeks of Lent. Digging deeper to understand better our celebration of Mass. I am so proud of the efforts made right across the diocese as groups during Lent met to reflect deeply on their faith. This project sends the message loud and clear that together we are stronger.

The texts, emails and cards I have received thanking the Diocese and those responsible for rolling out this particular initiative are very encouraging. They tell me the hunger that is there for solid formation in our faith; the tools we used this Lent are adaptable for further programmes into the future.

Programmes that are parish based or offered by a cluster of parishes, adapting to the cultural changes that are evident all around us. Of course, we know to our dying death we will still be digging, there is always more to learn, more to reflect on, none more so than on this Holy Week. Making sense of the journey of Jesus, His suffering and His anointing.

Digging with others is so much more rewarding for all of us. A Christian journey, initiated by the oils and water of baptism, nourished by the Eucharist and reaffirmed by the grace of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation is never a journey taken alone, we travel together, le chéile, like to tonight’s Chrism Mass.

The concept of parish is key to a night like this. Parishes are the places where sacraments are celebrated. Each parish has its own unique identity and expression. I suppose that’s why the parish banners on a night like tonight are so important. Fifty-six parishes, but one diocese. Chrism Mass shows the unity of the diocese. A unity that is centred on the anointed one Himself, Christ.

The Hebrew word Messiah and its Greek translation gives us the name Christ, meaning “the anointed one”. The early church could see no better name for Christ. Pope Emeritus Benedict used a great phrase for the Anointing of the Sick, calling it “God’s medicine”.

Two words seem to typify a night like this – consecrate and anoint. They are not words often used in social media; they seem to be from a different age and time. Sometimes we reduce their meaning with remarks like “a little blessing”. It’s anything but, it’s generous consecrating and lavish anointing. It is a consecration and anointing not for personal privilege, but for service.

Like my mother’s puzzlement at the Icelandic Volcanic Ash, I’m amused when someone at the end of a Mass, after the final solemn blessing, asks for another blessing, sometimes calling it “a little blessing”. A pain, a crutch, a cross – we priests must be generous with oils and blessings. Like the words spoken by the Prophet Isaiah we are anointed to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight.

At the end of tonight’s Mass, the Vicars in the company of young people, representing the Meitheal programme in the Diocese will process out with the sacred urns of oil which will in time be dispersed through the traditional deanery structure into all our parishes. It is a moving moment.

But the distribution of the holy oils is more than an external exercise of transportation, which nowadays could be arranged perhaps some other way. It is more importantly an internal process, that together as a diocesan body, a diocesan priesthood, we carry on this outpouring of life-giving oil over the whole body of the Church. It brings us all back to the source, what gives our priesthood, our ministry meaning: Christ, the Anointed One. And it is ministry in collaboration, in cooperation with lay women and men and how glad I am to see so many here tonight, representing every strand of diocesan and parish life. When you rejoice, we rejoice with you. When you despair in the darkness and shadows, we are there with you. When you are wounded, we feel your pain.

None more so than in the past couple of months that saw the freak and untimely passing of John Cummins, Administrator here for eleven years and host to this Chrism Mass over many of those years, serving more recently for too brief a spell in Abbeyleix; the sad and gentle passing of Pierce Murphy and the sudden death of Jack Rogers. All three were with us at last years Chrism celebration.

But with their sad passing we equally rejoice in the incardination into the priesthood of our Diocese, of George Augustine in recent weeks, Shem Furlong earlier this year and PJ Somers back in 2017. These men are most welcome and we give thanks that they have seen something of the anointed one in all of us, that attracts them into our fold.

As a diocese we have recently welcomed new priests amongst us from other lands and other cultures: Eugene Dragos serving in Newbridge; Paul Lawlor, Dominican also serving in Newbridge; P.J. Fitzgerald, continuing a long Kiltegan association with the diocese serving in Mountrath; Bernard Reyhart covering sabbatical leave in Monasterevin; Marek Zygadio serving in Naas and chaplain to the Polish community and Peter Medves settling amongst us here at the Cathedral.

A diocese is larger than its priests, it is all of us working in ever closer collaboration, continuing to dig deeper, aware that the dig we are on, is the pursuit of a lifetime. Our new Diocesan Pastoral Council which met for the first time last week is a gathering of voices, representative of every end of the diocese. I pray its work will bear great fruit in time to come, as we face the changing contours that we minister and celebrate our faith in, in 2019. May we all together become the aroma of Christ. In the great prayer of Teresa of Avila “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he sees, Yours are the feet with which He walks, Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world. Christ has no body now but yours”. Friends we are all in this together, and together we are much stronger.

Let us pray for our priests now as we move to the Renewal of Priestly Promises …

Closing words:

  • The Diocesan Commission for Liturgical Formation – chaired by Margarita Bedding / The Diocesan Master of Ceremonies – Liam Morgan / The Diocesan Choir conducted by Fr. Liam Lawton, accompanied by Marian Gaynor / organist: Stephen Adams / Fergus Connaughton playing the oboe.
  • Ruairí Ó Domhnaill, Fr. Brian Maguire, Sr. Dolores & the Cathedral Parish Centre staff.
  • The Deacons, Gary Moore & Paul Wyer, who assisted at this Chrism Mass and indeed the service the eight Permanent Deacons offer our Diocese.
  • Julie Kavanagh and the team at FDS for their help with organising many aspects of this liturgy and designing the booklet.
  • And most especially, to thank all of you who travelled from the 56 parishes of the Diocese / all involved in any way with this evening’s ceremony / a special word to those who carried the parish banners.
  • Most of all I thank our priests tonight who have once again come in huge numbers to the Chrism Mass for your unstinting service to your parish and to our diocese.
  • Conn & Carlow College for hosting the refreshments once again tonight – a special word of thanks to the catering team there / I ask you to go straight there after the hymn and don’t let the tea go cold / I look forward to meeting all of you at those refreshments in a short while.
  • You might consider taking the Chrism Mass booklet home with you, as it contains a ‘Prayer for our Diocese’ at this time of transition, I encourage you to pray this prayer during the Easter Season, we will pray it together now …