Homily of Bishop Fintan Monahan for Chrism Mass 2020

09 Apr 2020

Saints Peter & Paul Cathedral, Ennis – via Ennis Parish webcam

“When we can meet again in normal manner, when we shake someone’s hand again in welcome, when we can congratulate them for something well done, when we can console someone in bereavement, let us appreciate all the more that human, life-giving encounter of really being present, not just electronically” – Bishop Fintan Monahan


A Chrism Mass with a difference
For us all, this is a Holy Thursday with a difference.  Normally it is celebration of unity, a celebration of what it means to be together, to share the love, the life, the ministry of Jesus Christ and what unites us together in that bond of service. 

United in faith with the assistance of technology
However, instead of a large congregation celebrating that togetherness we have practically an empty Church, due to the extraordinary circumstances of the fall-out of the Corona Virus, the plague of our time, 2020.  Nonetheless, we are still united together in faith with the assistance of technology and you are so welcome to join us in spirit for this special occasion via webcam or the parish radio link.

You at home, priests, religious and lay faithful are an intrinsic and important part of this celebration. While you may not be physically here, you are joining with us in Spiritual Communion.  

Consideration of Postponement
We considered the option of postponing the Chrism Mass until the current crisis was over, but after consultation, the general feeling was that we should go ahead and at least bless the Sacred Oils and then on another occasion we might have a diocesan celebration of being together again.

Numbers of Priests in Ministry
Of our total of 93 priests, 53 are in active ministry.  However 9 of that 53 in active service are now cocooning.   This means that out of a total of 93, 44 are, on this day, in active ministry and 49 are cocooned.  We remember those who are confined these days and pray for their well-being, safety and health.

We pray for our four priests who are nursing home care.

We pray for our seminarian, Antun, who is present with us at Mass today.


Today we remember and honour our Jubilarians:

Diamond:        Canon Michael McLoughlin,

Golden:           Martin O’Brien

                        Peter O’Loughlin

                        Brendan Moloney

Ruby:              James Grace

                        Michael Cooney

                        Michael Reddan SVD

Silver:              Abbot Brendan in Glenstal (Joe Coffey)

Congratulations to them all for their distinguished service!

Deceased Priests
In prayerful remembrance we remember the five priests who went to God since last year’s Chrism Mass:

Reuben Butler

Tom Seymour

JJ Rodgers

Pat Taaffe

Joe Haugh

The difficult reality of the past month
In reflecting this morning during this Chrism Mass in these past four weeks – this extraordinary time has been a sobering time of thought and reflection for us in so many ways.  This time has brought us to our knees and with many questions in doing so!  We have been like the biblical Job with our frustration, anger and bewilderment.  Why has an atrocity been visited on us forcing us to close the door of our churches, the location of so much of what we do and where we do so much of our praying?!

However, we have struggled earnestly, and complied obediently to the best of our abilities with restrictive movements. Many of us have experienced people we know who are sick with the Coronavirus.   Many have died and the sadness of restricted norms has made the celebration of such funerals all the more challenging and difficult.  The pain of the bereaved remains very much in our prayers. Many of us haven’t seen some members of family in weeks and we struggle ways to discern new ways of keeping in touch, keeping connected.  We hold all the pain of this and the struggles therein and other challenges as well in our prayers this morning during this Mass.  This is certainly a Holy Week like no other!

Reflection on Service
On Holy Thursday and during the Chrism Mass we reflect on the meaning of the ministry of service.  What a warm and meaningful word it is.  To serve someone, to be of service: connotations of giving, generosity, benevolence, charity, solicitude, giftedness being freely given.

The spirit of the call in Isaiah in today’s first reading.

The spirit of the call in Saint Luke in the Gospel text.

The spirit of what Jesus asks us to do as followers of Him.

The command he gave us on that first Holy Thursday.

The meaning of what Eucharist is in the Gospel of John, the washing of the feet that we will hear proclaimed this evening.

On this special morning we celebrate the work of so many who serve in our Church in response to the invitation of Jesus Christ:

Dedicated Priests – the many outstanding religious of the diocese

Women and men, lay people, the length and breadth of the diocese who serve on:

Pastoral Councils

Finance Committees

Boards of Management

Property Committees

Liturgy Groups

Safeguarding Committees


Those who serve as:





Eucharistic Ministers

Music Ministers

People who look after our Churches

Sacramental Teams

Marriage Preparation

Bereavement Ministry

Communication officers

Data Protection Officers

Marriage Tribunals


Prayer Ministries


New Ministries
This year we had planned to have a great celebration of not just priestly ministry but also the New Ministries of Pastoral Care and Catechesis who are coming towards the end of their second year of study and preparation.  We had intended to have all 25 of the New Ministry folk with us, along with their families to pray for their continuing integration into the ministry of the pastoral areas of the diocese on this sacred occasion.  One of the many aims and visions of Vatican II was encouraging everyone to exercise their vocation as baptised women and men.

An evolving face of Ministry
These new ministries are part of the Changing nature of Ministry, from ministry being the sole preserve of the ordained to Ministry of all the people, a ministry we are called to through our baptism.  Not everyone is free to minister.  People have family, careers, responsibilities. However, in 2018, I invited those who are free and to explore if the Lord is calling them to discern if they had a vocation to a lay part-time ministry in our Diocese. They are now in that discernment process and are in formation for ministry as Catechists and Pastoral Care ministers.

From Maintenance to Mission
This model of lay participation has been long established in other countries, countries we would have referred to as Mission countries, but we are now in Mission territory ourselves, moving from a maintenance model of Church to a Mission model. Our new lay ministers are being formed for a church that will emerge as the older format passes away. They are being trained to be missionaries in this Diocese and in their own pastoral areas.

Challenge of collaboration and integration
The challenge and invitation facing us will be to collaborate effectively with them and with those who come after them, to ensure that the Gospel is heard in all corners of our Diocese.

Hunger for the Sign of God’s Presence
Across our world, in the past month we have seen a great need for a tangible signs of God’s presence amongst us. The sacred oils blessed and consecrated this evening offer that very tangible and visible sign. While the circumstances are very different than any of us might have hoped for or wished for, our world, our Church, our diocese needs these oils more than ever at this time and the ministry of service that accompanies them.

Reflection on the Blessing of Oils of Chrism and Catechumens
Oils are what keeps engines in working order and in proper proportion keep our bodies functioning well.  Oils are used for anointing, soothing ills and promoting healing and well-being in so many cultures, rituals and religions of the world.

The Sacramental Oils that are to be blessed and consecrated this evening are what keeps the engine and heart and health of every parish and pastoral area ticking over and performing well, be that for Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination of the Sacrament of the Sick. We look forward in hope to using these oils in sacramental moments once restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.

Ministers of Healing in our World
At this time we salute the heroic efforts and continue to pray for so many in our community who have been using their healing gifts to care for so many who need them, doctors, nurses and many care givers.  Many of these unsung heroes have risked their lives, so that others might be healed and enabled to recover.

Many priests, religious and Church people have offered the healing presence of the Lord, Sacramentally, in Holy Anointing and funeral ministry at this time and we pray that God might continue to strengthen and bless them and keep them safe so that they can continue to minister and bring the healing presence of Jesus to many.

Light emerging out of Darkness
I remember, as a seminarian in Saint Patrick`s College, Maynooth, our Professor of Greek, one Father Michael Neary, used to say to us that in Greek the translation of crisis was not so much a crisis as we understand it but, in reality, an opportunity.  The current crisis for so many has thankfully turned into an opportunity for service.  A crisis brings out the best and we are seeing the best in people every day in heart-warming stories.  We are very conscious of those serving on our frontlines, particularly healthcare teams and their families.  I feel with the amount of good that has risen to the surface in the service that has been given that our Church communities will be all the more vibrant and genuinely Christian as a result of the Corona Virus!

When we can meet again in normal manner, when we shake someone’s hand again in welcome, when we can congratulate them for something well done, when we can console someone in bereavement, let us appreciate all the more that human, life-giving encounter of really being present, not just electronically.  This evening in reflecting on the Eucharist we reflect on the meaning of the real presence of the divine.  Real presence.  When we can meet up with someone in future times, perhaps we will be better motivated to have more real and meaningful conversations.   When our work-places, parks, playgrounds, scenic locations, beaches and places of recreation, sporting and otherwise reopen let’s make those moments last and perhaps live them better!

Accepting, acknowledging and Addressing Vulnerability
Maybe most of all what this time seems to be telling us is that we are – each and every one of us – vulnerable, frail and dependent as human beings and, even more so, importantly that it is okay to be so. No matter how powerful people may think that they are, some things are outside our control, completely outside our control.   We need God’s help and the help of others, family, community, those around us. 

Is gaire cabhair Dé ná an doras.

God’s help is closer than the door.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann muid.

We live in the shade of each other.

We need not be paralyzed by fear.  One of the most repeated phrases in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”. Like the disciples in the boat, during the storm, Jesus is there at the helm. It’s reasonable to be unsure, unsettled, upended, overturned, but we have faith in the presence of God to journey with us. 

Most of all we remember our ministry to each other along with the oil of the sick, and the healing presence of God symbolized and actual therein.

Look after one another! Inspired by the Gospel of Saint Luke that’s what our Church does best this Chrism Mass morning on this Holy Thursday. And that’s where these new oils are put to best use, in our care for the most vulnerable and the most broken of our brothers and sisters. 

A blessing for the Triduum
May God bless you and remain with you during these difficult times and give a deep sense of his presence, especially as we enter the celebration of the Triduum this evening until Easter Sunday!  Amen!


Notes to Editors

  • Bishop Fintan Monahan is the Bishop of Killaloe
  • The Chrism Mass is held during Holy Week in every Catholic diocese.  During this Mass, the priests, deacons and representatives of the entire diocesan community gather around their bishop, who blesses the Holy Oils for use in the coming year.  These are: Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens, and Sacred Chrism.  Whenever the Holy Oils are used in a diocese, the ministry of the Bishop who consecrated them is symbolically present.  The Chrism Mass reminds us of our oneness in Christ through Baptism and its holy anointing, made possible by the ministry of the bishop and his priests.  The Chrism Mass is also a key moment in which the unity of the Bishop with his priests (together, they form the presbyterate) is manifested and renewed.  During the liturgy, the entire assembly is called to renew its baptismal promises; deacons and priests also renew their vow of obedience to the local bishop and their commitment to serve God’s people. At the end of the Chrism Mass, the Holy Oils are brought back to parishes of the diocese for use in the coming year.
  • A special Holy Week feature is now available on www.catholicbishops.ie highlighting: Mass Readings for Holy Week and Easter 2020; details of Pope Francis’ schedule for Holy Week and the Easter Triduum; Bishops’ Homilies and Messages for Holy Week and Easter; details of online broadcasts of services in dioceses; details of Easter Services on Television and Radio; a special Holy Week series of Bishops’ Faithcast podcast; and additional resources to creatively mark Holy Week at Home.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm +353 (0) 87 310 4444.