Find your parish Donate

Homily of Bishop Denis from the Chrism Mass 2022

Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow 11.04.22 7.30pm


It is great to be able to gather this year for the first time in three years for our Chrism Mass. I re-echo Sr. Ann’s words of welcome to all of you to the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow. And while we gather from our fifty-six parishes, I am conscious of those who are joining us on webcam and parish radio – all of you are very welcome.

Tonight is the night that celebrates Kildare and Leighlin in its fullness: bishop, priests, religious, deacons and lay people together. I am always conscious of our priests on a night like this, it brings all of us back to the day of ordination as Priestly Promises are publicly renewed. I am more conscious than ever this year of our late Bishop Emeritus Jim Moriarty, whose mortal remains rest in the cathedral grounds outside; Bishop Jim just buried twelve days ago. I welcome Bishop Jim’s family who join us through the webcam.

I include in my welcome the wide tapestry that encompasses our diocese: our permanent deacons, religious and of course the huge numbers of lay people, women and men, our co-workers, who contribute immensely and support the life of our parishes and the story of our diocese. I warmly welcome Oxanna and her three daughters Maria, Solomia and Anna recently arrived from Ukraine to Portlaoise. I thank the thousands who engaged in different fora during our Synodal Listening Lent, sharing honestly and openly your joys, pains and hopes for our Church, submissions incensed at the beginning of our Mass.

With the covid pandemic still very much prevalent, with a war that is causing such disregard for human life in Ukraine, with a planet that is more under threat today than ever, with a universal synod that is speaking to people of every culture right across the world – we see an even greater need for a tangible sign of God’s presence amongst us.

The oils blessed and consecrated this evening offer that very tangible reality. Our world, our Church, our diocese, our parishes need these oils more than ever at this time and the ministry associated with them …


CHRISM, C for Catechumen, C for Chrism. It’s the night we bless oils. Oils that represent the sacramental life of every parish. Oils for baptism celebrations. The joy I had baptizing my grandniece Fiadh Veronica yesterday. Oils for ceremonies of anointing the sick. I think of Fr. PJ McEvoy who joins us this evening by webcam from Altadore Nursing Home in Glenageary and our other Kildare & Leighlin priests who get great comfort from the Sacrament of the Sick. Oils for confirmation liturgies. Over recent weeks I have confirmed 1,160 young people. The most recent ceremony on Friday last in Leighlin, the parish of St. Laserian. Oils for moments of ordination – priest and bishop. While I look back with great joy to the ordinations of Seán, Shane, David and Yang Shuai; I so much look forward to more in the future. We must do everything we can to encourage young men to contemplate a life of service and ministry as a priest.

CH, H for Holy Week – this is the holiest week of the year. A week that speaks to every emotion. A week of words, gestures, movement, symbols, and much more. And this week calls us as we walk with Christ, bruised and broken for us, to have a sense of holiness – priests, people, all of us. We tend to shy away from the thought of being considered holy. And yet this is the essence of our relationship with Christ.

It is from here comes our response to the poor, the refugee, the captives, the blind, the downtrodden. While the prophet Isaiah wrote eight centuries before Christ, his words have a raw resonance on the streets of Bucha or the platform at the train station at Kramatorsk in Ukraine in recent days. Maybe in our brokenness we are at our holiest? Erik Varden who leads our diocesan clergy retreat this September writes: “to be worthy is not to be blameless: the Eucharist is not a prize for good behaviour. To be worthy is to assent to the realization of Christ’s example in my life … the Lord does not seek instant perfection. But he requires coherence in the way we live[1]. We achieve this coherence in our interiorizing of holiness.

CHR, R for Renewal, the renewal of priestly promises. Chrism is the moment we return to our Ordination Day and remember what was said then and heard by those who were with us, many now gone to their eternal reward. I congratulate our jubilarians this year: Paddy Daly, Tom Walshe and Sean Kelly all sixty years ordained; PJ Somers, Liam Merrigan and Jimmy Kelly all forty years ordained; Mark Townsend and Brian Kavanagh both thirty years ordained and Rory Nolan, Seán Maher, Paul Dempsey and Brendan Howard all twenty-five years ordained.

I want all the priests to know they and their ministry are deeply treasured and appreciated. Our new diocesan stole which the priests and deacons are wearing tonight was a long time in the planning and it helps to forge our strong identity and bond. The renewal of ordination vows happens in this Chrism gathering in the presence of the key people who support us in the diocese and in our parishes. A renewal in our commitment to the service of God, the Church and its people once more.

Priests are collaborators. No man is an island. As I meet with priests and deacons in the seven Pastoral Areas I am clearly hearing the need to work much closer together with one another and with our lay sisters and brothers. Lay people are our co-workers. Women and men are the backbone of every parish. On this night I applaud your commitment and dedication to parish, a dedication that is rooted in understanding and living your baptismal calling.

CHRI, I for Intentional. This is the evening where we are all called to be intentional disciples in the Lord’s vineyard. Pope Francis recently on his trip to Malta invited us to return to the nascent Church that we find beneath the cross in the persons of Mary and John. He said “going back to the origins means … recovering the spirit of the first Christian community, returning to the heart and rediscovering the core of our faith[2]. We may lament the slow return of the faithful in the aftermath of pandemic, and yet under the Cross there were just two and from those two the Church emerged.   

It is often said ‘by their works you will know them’. If we live our lives authentically giving witness to the Lord who bandages the broken and embraces the wounded, people will be moved to more deeply reflect on their faith. If we are intentionally people of faith, others will in time be moved by our witness to gospel values. Nothing inspires young people more than this intentional witness. It’s an absolute joy for me to meet young people at so many events around the diocese, from school visits,  Confirmations, Meitheal graduations, Pope John Paul II award evenings and of course our pilgrimages.

CHRIS, S for Synod and the Synodal conversations that have been happening throughout the diocese over Lent. Many thanks for engaging with these discussions in parishes and online. 40% of those who responded directly online were in the age-group 18-29, which of itself is very significant. There was huge engagement with schools and colleges – more than 500 Primary School students responded as did 8 of our Post Primary Transition Year groups. There were particular targeted focus groups including the prisoner community, the traveller community, Religious, LGBTQ+ community, and those in direct provision as well as submissions from the Polish families here and the African Catholic family group. The next step now is to honour all these submissions by a deep listening on all that has been said as we strive to compile our diocesan submission during the Easter season. Tonight is not a night for any in-depth analysis, the time will come for that in May.

Pope Francis notes that some leaders talk about “making a few adjustments here and there, but they are basically advocating for the same system as before. When they talk of “recovery” they mean putting a bit of varnish on the future, touching up the paintwork here and there, but all to make sure that nothing changes[3]. Be reassured every submission will be read, and I already hear the pain, the frustration, the sense that our Church is uncaring. These submissions are not the end of the discourse on these critical topics but rather an impetus for further discussion. Discernment, listening to the stillness of the spirit is very much part of our synodal journey. It’s not just about an isolated moment or encounter but it’s a new way of being Church. The Church doesn’t do ‘Citizens Assembly’ – it prays, it reflects, it invites us out of its own brokenness and shortcomings to something much greater, God’s love and acceptance of each one of us.

CHRISM, M for Moriarty – Bishop Jim. A couple of weeks before his resignation was accepted in Rome in April 2010, Bishop Jim spoke the following words in his last Chrism homily: “Throughout my ministry here in the diocese I have been inspired and moved by the commitment of so many people. People continue to commit themselves to the ministries of music, reading, Eucharistic ministry, safeguarding children, bereavement ministry. People give of their time to serve the needs of young people at local parish level and diocesan level[4].

He applauded the initiatives of young people, the commitment of parents to hand on the faith, the dedication of Parish Pastoral Councils and those involved in prayer ministry and charity work. His parting words were a reminder that we are part of a bigger story that forever reminds us not to give up but to keep trusting in the Lord’s love. The words of the late poet Brendan Kennelly were apt and Jim finished with them:

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending  

That always seems about to give in

Something that will not acknowledge conclusion

Insists that we forever begin.[5]

Over the last evening as we cheered on Rory McElroy and Shane Lowry in the final stages of the US Masters at Augusta, Bishop Jim held the reputation of being the only Irish Bishop ever to play on that Masters course! May Jim and all our loved ones who died since last we gathered for Chrism rest in the peace and companionship of the Lord.

[1] Varden, Eric: ‘The Shattering of Loneliness’, Bloomsbury, 2018, pg. 94.

[2] Pope Francis, Address at National Shrine of “Ta’ Pinu” in Gozo, Saturday, 2 April 2022

[3] Pope Francis, ‘Let Us Dream’, Simon & Schuster, 2020, pg. 44.

[4] Chrism Mass Homily 2010

[5] Kennelly, Brendan: ‘Begin’, 2000