Pope Francis at Chrism Mass: Invoke Holy Spirit as the breath of each day

During Chrism Mass in the Vatican on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis thanks priests for the good they do, which so often goes unrecognized. And he encourages them to invoke the Holy Spirit as 'the breath of each day,' which, even in times of crisis, gives them joy and points them in the right direction, toward Christ.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

"Priestly maturity comes from the Holy Spirit and is achieved when He becomes the protagonist in our lives."

Pope Francis gave this reminder on Holy Thursday morning during the Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, as he urged priests to invoke the Spirit not only as "an occasional act of piety," but as "the breath of each day."

In his homily, the Pope thanked priests for their service, which often goes unrecognized, as he reflected on the Holy Spirit.

The Pope recalled Jesus saying, in today's readings, that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, and underscored that without the Spirit "there can be no Christian life; without His anointing, there can be no holiness." 

Lost without Holy Spirit 

Since the Spirit is at the centre, the Pope said, it is fitting that today, "on the birthday of the priesthood, we acknowledge His presence at the origin of our own ministry, and as the life and vitality of every priest." 

Chrism Mass in the Vatican
Chrism Mass in the Vatican

Holy Mother Church, he recalled, teaches us to profess that the Holy Spirit is the “giver of life."

"Without the Holy Spirit," the Pope warned, "the Church would not be the living Bride of Christ, but, at most, a religious association..."

The Holy Father reiterated that we are “temples of the Holy Spirit” who “dwells in us.” 

“We cannot lock the Spirit out of the house, or park Him in some devotional zone! No, at the center! Each day we need to say: 'Come, for without Your strength, we are lost.'”

The Pope said that we can all say that the Spirit is upon us, not out of presumption, but as a reality. 

"Dear brothers, apart from any merit of our own, and by sheer grace," Pope Francis said, "we have received an anointing that has made us fathers and shepherds among the holy People of God."

Pope Francis at Chrism Mass in the Vatican
Pope Francis at Chrism Mass in the Vatican

The Apostles' turnaround

The Pope recalled how Jesus chose His Apostles, and, at His call, they left their boats, nets, and homes.  

"The anointing of the Word changed their lives," he recalled, saying with great enthusiasm, saying "they followed the Master and began to preach, convinced that they would go on to accomplish even greater things." However, then came the Passover, the Pope stated, observing that at this moment "everything seemed to come to a halt: they even denied and abandoned their Master," recalling the denial of Christ by Peter. 

However, the Holy Father highlighted, "It was precisely that 'second anointing', at Pentecost, that changed the disciples and led them to shepherd no longer themselves but the Lord’s flock. It was that anointing with fire that extinguished a 'piety' focused on themselves and their own abilities. 

"After receiving the Spirit, Peter’s fear and wavering dissipated; James and John, with a burning desire to give their lives, no longer sought places of honour - our careerism, brothers; the others who had huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, went forth into the world as Apostles."

The Pope observed that something similar, to the Apostles' experience, happens in the priestly and apostolic lives of priests.

Two options at times of crisis  

"We too experienced an initial anointing, which began with a loving call that captivated our hearts and set us out on the journey; the power of the Holy Spirit descended upon our genuine enthusiasm and consecrated us.  Later, in God’s good time, each of us experienced a Passover, representing the moment of truth.  A time of crisis..."

For the anointed, the Pope said, this stage is a watershed.  

"We can emerge from it badly, drifting towards mediocrity and settling for a dreary routine, in which three dangerous temptations can arise:  The temptation of compromise, where we are content just to do what has to be done; the temptation of surrogates, where to find satisfaction we look not to our anointing, but elsewhere; and the temptation of discouragement - that is the most common-, where dissatisfaction leads to inertia." 

The great danger

This here, Pope Francis said, is the great danger: "While outward appearances remain intact, 'I am a priest,' we close in upon ourselves and are content just to get by.  The fragrance of our anointing no longer wafts through our lives; our hearts no longer expand but shrivel, disillusioned and disenchanted." And priests risk their identities as pastors of the people, to becoming clerics of the State.

Yet, he reminded them, this crisis also has the potential to be a turning point in our priesthood.

For it can become, Pope Francis said, the “decisive stage of the spiritual life, in which the ultimate choice has to be made between Jesus and the world, between heroic charity and mediocrity, between the Cross and comfort, between holiness and dutiful fidelity to our religious obligations.”

At this moment, Pope Francis announced that at the end of the ceremony, a writing by Fr. René Voillaume, who founded the Little Brothers of Jesus and was inspired by the life and writings of saint Charles de Foucauld, entitled La Seconda Chiamata ("The Second Calling"), would be offered to all priests present, as a tool to remind clerics how they are called, once again, to let the Holy Spirit transform them.

Pope Francis gives homily during Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in the Vatican
Pope Francis gives homily during Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in the Vatican

Setting out on a new journey

The Pope called it a moment of grace when, like the disciples at Easter, we are called to be “sufficiently humble to admit that we have been won over by the suffering and crucified Christ, and to set out on a new journey, that of the Spirit, of faith, and of a love that is strong, yet without illusions.”

This happens, he said, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and requires that we admit the reality of our own weakness. 

"That is what the Spirit of truth tells us to do; he prompts us to look deep within and to ask: Does my fulfilment depend on my abilities, my position, the compliments I receive, my promotions, the respect of my superiors or coworkers, the comforts with which I surround myself? Or on the anointing that spreads its fragrance everywhere in my life? "

“Dear brothers, priestly maturity comes from the Holy Spirit and is achieved when He becomes the protagonist in our lives.”

"Once that happens, everything turns around," Pope Francis insisted, "even disappointments and bitter experiences, and sins, since we are no longer trying to find happiness by adjusting details, but by giving ourselves completely to the Lord who anointed us and who wants that anointing to penetrate to the depths of our being!  

"Brothers," he exhorted, "we discover that the spiritual life becomes liberating and joyful, once we are no longer concerned to save appearances and make quick fixes, but leave the initiative to the Spirit and, in openness to his plans, show our willingness to serve wherever and however we are asked. Our priesthood does not grow by quick fixes but by an overflow of grace!"

The Spirit cleanses and heals

If priests allow the Spirit of Truth to act within them, the Pope said, they will preserve His anointing, because "the various untruths with which we are tempted to live, will come to light."  And the Spirit who “cleanses what is unclean,” will tirelessly suggest to to priests "not to defile our anointing.'”

The Holy Spirit alone heals our infidelities, the Pope said, noting that the Spirit "is that interior teacher to whom we must listen, recognizing that He desires to anoint every part of us." 

The Pope urged his fellow priests to preserve their anointing by not only invoking the Spirit as an occasional act of piety, "but as the breath of each day." 

"Consecrated by Him," the Holy Father said, "I am called to immerse myself in Him, to make His life penetrate my darkness, so that I can rediscover the truth of who and what I am.  Let us allow ourselves to be impelled by Him to combat the untruths that struggle within us.  And let us allow ourselves to be reborn from Him through adoration, for when we adore the Lord, He pours forth into our hearts His Spirit."

Chrism Mass in the Vatican
Chrism Mass in the Vatican

The Holy Father warned against division and polarization. "Let us take care, please," he said, "not to defile the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the robe of Mother Church with disunity, polarization, or lack of charity and communion."  He also condemned when priests live double lives or are two-faced.

The kindness of the priest

Harmony, the Pope stressed, is not one virtue among others, but more, noting we must preserve it on a personal level.

"Let us ask ourselves: In my words, in my comments, in what I say and write, is there the seal of the Spirit or that of the world?  Do I think about the kindness of the priest: if people see, in us too, people who are dissatisfied and discontented, who criticize and point fingers, where else will they find harmony? How many people fail to approach us, or keep at a distance, because in the Church they feel unwelcomed and unloved, regarded with suspicion and judged? 

"In God’s name, let us be welcoming and forgiving, always! And let us remember that being irritable and full of complaints does not produce good fruits, but spoils our preaching, since it is a counter-witness to God, who is communion in harmony."  

It displeases the Holy Spirit, he said.

Gratitude for the hidden good you do

"Dear brothers, I leave you with these thoughts that come from my heart and are in my heart, and I conclude with two simple and important words: Thank you." 

“Thank you for your witness and for your service. Thank you for all the hidden good you do, and for the forgiveness and consolation that you bestow in God’s name. Thank you for your ministry, which often is carried out with great effort, misunderstandings and little recognition.”

Pope Francis concluded by saying, "May the Spirit of God, who does not disappoint those who trust in Him, fill you with peace and bring to conclusion the good work he began in you, so that you may be prophetic witnesses of His anointing and apostles of harmony."

Chrism Mass in the Vatican
Chrism Mass in the Vatican
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06 April 2023, 10:08