Vessels containing sacred chrism oil, the oil of the Sick and the oil of catechumens are displayed in the sanctuary of St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, N.Y., during the annual chrism Mass in 2014. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: ‘Thanks for Giving Your Life to the Church’

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Father David BonnarIn July 1988, I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ at the young age of 26. One thing I will always remember from that glorious day, which incidentally happened in my home parish church, was a private exchange with the ordaining bishop just moments before the Holy Mass began. He ushered me into the rectory lounge, and he looked at me eye to eye and said, “Dave, thanks for giving your life to the Church.”

Priesthood is a wonderful gift. Those of us who are ordained as ministers of Jesus Christ cannot help but be grateful every day for the gift that is ours. This gift enables us to teach, to lead and to sanctify the People of God in the name of Jesus Christ.

What makes this gift even more special is that it is bestowed upon us as men who are broken and “beset by weakness” (Heb 5:2). We are sinners. Nevertheless, God chose us according to his divine plan to be his servants, teachers, healers, sanctifiers, administrators and unifiers. What a most precious gift!

As priests, it is our custom to join our respective bishop and the People of God on Holy Thursday morning in the mother church of the diocese for the annual chrism Mass. The bishop consecrates the sacred chrism and blesses the oil of catechumens and oil of the sick, all of which are used for the sacramental life of the Church.

On the day of our ordination to the priesthood, we were anointed with chrism and then sent forth to give our lives to Jesus and his Church forever. “The Lord has sworn, and he will not waver; ‘You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek’” (Ps 110:4).

In the preface prayer at the chrism Mass entitled “The Priesthood of Christ and the Ministry of Priests,” the bishop prays for his priests. He says, “As they give up their lives for you and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters, they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ himself and offer you a constant witness of faith and love.” Has there ever been a time in the history of our lives when the Church and the world need our faith and love more?

The chrism Mass affords us the opportunity to strengthen this faith and love through the renewal of our priestly promises. Just because we cannot be with our bishop and brother priests to share this day together when we celebrate the institution of the priesthood, let us not bypass this poignant moment in our personal prayer and the celebration of our private Masses to renew the Ego Adsum, which is Latin for “present,” or “I am here.” Together, as scattered and as isolated as we are right now, let us acknowledge as brothers before God that we are present, ready and eager to be one with Jesus Christ every day, and to be a living sign of faith and love to the Church.

Happy feast day brothers! Happy priesthood! And, if I may, I would like to say one more thing — namely, “Thank you for giving your life to the Church.”

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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