Archive for April, 2012

INTROIBO AD ALTARE DEI

Monday, April 30th, 2012

“I shall go onto the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth.” This opening line to what previously were the “Prayers at the Foot of the Altar” were very much in my mind yesterday (Sunday) as over 400 altar serves from most of the parishes and missions throughout the diocese gathered at St. Jude the Apostle Cathedral for the annual Altar Server Appreciation Mass. Twenty-seven pastors and associates, six deacons, and scores of parents, altar server trainers, etc. also joined as one server (well almost one, some parishes choose one server from their English community and one from their Spanish community) from each parish was called forth to receive the “Altar Server of the Year Award.”

Organized by our diocesan Vocations Office, Father Carl Melchior, part of our diocesan recruitment team preached the homily. Since it was “Good Shepherd Sunday” and also Worldwide Day of Prayer for Vocations, it was a good time to gather and thank those who give of their time and talent to serve at the altar. They did not offer this in the forties and early fifties when I was serving and had they it would have been an all-male moment as young women were not allowed to serve at the altar (Thank You, Blessed Pope John Paul II).

It really is such a privilege to be able to serve at Mass. Short of ordination, hardly anyone gets closer than servers. And as was pointed out several times, when they are really good at serving, they assist the priest by giving him peace of mind that the sacred action will proceed smoothly and what happens in the sanctuary away from the altar is one less thing for him to have to worry about.

Many of the older servers, male and female, in this diocese are outstanding at what they are able to do and in some parishes they get promoted to serve as “Masters of Ceremonies.” At the Cathedral we have what is called the “Bishop’s Corp” and these young women and men are just terrific – there for me on every occasion including some dreadfully dull situations, but always smiling and serving. Many remain long after they graduate from high school which I believe to be a great blessing to many.

One young man from St. Catherine’s parish, Ben Keiler, had just competed in the Florida High School Athletic Associations State Finals Track Meet in Jacksonville. After the ceremony, he said to me that he considered the award a special honor though the medal he gained from his placement in the high jump must surely have cost more money and will weather the test of aging far better.

Going up to the altar of God still gives joy to our youth and I was privileged as I always am to be present and preside at a Mass which thanks them for their service.

+RNL

TO THE TOMBS OF PETER AND PAUL

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

St. Peter's on a "slow" morning. Photo kindness of Douglas Vanderhook

Next Friday, a week from today, I leave for Rome and my third visit Ad Limina  since becoming your bishop. Every bishop in the world is to travel to Rome once every five years to report on the situation of his diocese, both to the Holy Father, and to his collaborators in the various Congregations, Councils and other offices of the Holy See. Our group is the next to the last of fifteen groupings of US bishops to make the trip since the latest round began in the late Fall of 2011.

There are so many bishops in the United States that we travel for these visits by episcopal regions. Our “region” includes the provinces of Atlanta and Miami or perhaps more understandable to you, the bishops of the arch/dioceses of Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston, Atlanta, Savannah, Pensacola-Tallahassee, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Venice, Palm Beach and Miami.

Our visit is preceeded by the accumulation of pages and pages of reports and statistics indicating progress and/or loss since the last report (now eight years ago). There is also a narrative as well. The report was sent in advance and generally someone in each major office is delegated to peruse the reports for any anomolies or suspect problems.

In the past, bishops had private meetings with the Holy Father of about twenty minutes. In my two visits with Blessed John Paul II, the first five were always spent answering his questions about the health of Bishop Larkin, his classmate at the Belgian College in Rome in their younger days. There were always a few openers by the Holy Father (how are vocations? how is family life? what is being done for evangelization?) but generally with him, the bishop had to carry the conversation. At the end there were pictures with the Pope and a brief but fond farewell. Pope Benedict has decided to forego the private meetings and instead meets with us by province and during this time he invites an open discussion of any issues of concern to ourselves. Bishops completing their Ad Limina visits this year have spoken well of both the discussions and overall experience.

Then we make the rounds of various “must-see” congregations and councils and some of those which we wish to see to conduct any business which we might have.

In November I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for my pilgrimage group at the altar above the new tomb for Blessed John Paul II. Picture kindness of Marc Barhonovich

Required of every bishop in the world on these visits is Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica and at the Tomb of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. We will also be offering Mass during our week in Rome at the North American College, at the altar of Blessed John Paul II in St. Peters, and at the Basilicas of St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. Between the Masses throughout the city, the work and the obligatory receptions (North American College Graduate House, the residence of the Ambassador of the United States of America to the Holy See, the Villa Stritch where US priests working for the Holy See reside), I can assure you that it is no “Roman holiday.” I will be exhausted when I return and have to plunge right into the confirmations, graduations and ordination schedule. I will attempt to blog each day but two cautions: there is a six hour difference in time zones and I must respect certain confidentialities along the line. Still I hope to capture the dialogue and exchanges. Next week prior to departure and after I have met with the priests of the diocese, I will indicate on what topic I wish to dedicate my three or five minutes of interaction with the Holy Father. If you have any thoughts and/or suggestions for the topic, please leave them in the comments column (only parishioners of the Diocese of St. Petersburg please, as the rest of the readership have their own bishop).

+RNL

THE NUNS’ STORY

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Last week it was revealed that the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had released an action taken against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a canonically recognized organization consisting as the title says, of heads of women’s religious orders and communities. The report from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (“CDF” hereinafter) was quite critical of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (“LCWR” hereinafter) and took several steps widely perceived to be against them. For me it is important to say several things:

1. Religious women (nuns) in the United States have played and continue to play an extremely important and vital role in the life of our Church. Sadly while their number is drastically declining those remaining hold positions of trust, leadership, and competence throughout the Church in the US. The CDF statement did not and could not call into question the great work of these women.

I like many of you reading this, love the sisters and that fact is no where more visible than in the reality that the annual collection for retired religious has been from inception and continues to be the largest second collection in the Church in the United States – triple what is given for Peter’s Pence and double what is given for Catholic Relief Services, to use two examples.

2. From time to time, various offices of the Holy See have taken it upon themselves to investigate and attempt to change other bodies extant in the Church. In the mid-eighties, the Congregation of Bishops in Rome had national episcopal conferences in their sight, due in no small part to their concern about the growing influence in the public square of the United States Catholic Conference which was garnering worldwide attention and acclaim for the twin pastoral letters on war and peace and the economy.Not lost on certain people in Rome was the fact that a picture of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago (and chair of the committee which wrote the pastoral on war and peace) appeared on the cover of TIME magazine before that of Pope John Paul II. The end result was a document from the Holy Father defining the limits of the teaching authority of episcopal conferences and who could vote and not vote among the bishops on matters. At the time it seemed like the sun was crashing down on post-conciliar collegiality but in the end, little changed.

I mention that because to someone who does not understand the praxis of the Holy See, it would seem that the Holy Father dislikes American religious women. Several actions would seem to reinforce this conclusion which I do not believe to be true. A few years ago when the visitation and evaluation of religious communities in the US was announced it also seemed like doomsday yet that has not and is likely not to be the case. The Holy Father actually has appointed a Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for Religious (it has a much longer title) who are strongly supportive of religious sisters and especially the situation in the U.S. American religious sisters began to experience relief when these two bishops began their work. I would bet a dollar to a donut that they knew little to nothing about last week’s paper from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in advance. That is not the way things work over there – there is “turf” protection and a pecking order of significance and competencies among the various Congregations and Councils.

3. So my words to my sisters in this diocese would be to relax somewhat. You are still loved and appreciated by your Church. The appointment of an incredibly fair and compassionate man like Archbishop Peter Sartain to see this process through is a hopeful sign in itself and I am not simply trying to apply “a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.” There have been other bishops appointed over the last few decades to “study American religious life and make appropriate changes” such as the one in the eighties chaired by Archbishop John R. Quinn. Disaster has never struck.

4. American Catholics who read the secular media are getting an introduction to how terribly the media understand the Church. Editorials have appeared all over the place supporting the sisters and condemning the Pope, Rome, bishops, men, etc., etc. The notion of a hierarchical Church is both foreign, inimical and anathema to current liberal, freethinking and secularist thought. I laud the media for their support of religious women in the United States but I also find something almost comical about how they visualize Church structure. They will not be around in a few years when the leadership of LCWR and Archbishop Sartain ascertain a way in which both can peacefully co-exist because there will be no story there. Yet that is precisely the story. From moments like this, monumental change rarely results and sometimes a deeper relationship replaces something which is frayed, tattered and/or torn. I have great faith that as in the past, both sides will make this work. Sisters love the Church which they have served because they love its founder, Jesus, who at times called all of us to live a radical ethic. The current seeming tempest at sea can and will be calmed and we will continue to love and support our sisters.

+RNL

ELEGY IN A CITY CHURCHYARD

Monday, April 16th, 2012

If you read my previous entry on the death of Bishop Agustín Román, Auxilary Bishop of Miami last Wednesday evening, you will likely not be surprised that I still carry the image of that loving and deeply caring bishop with me. On Saturday, the Church and the people whom he loved and served said good-bye to him in a style and manner which would have clearly been an embarrassment for him. After long hours of people passing by his body which laid in rest at his beloved Ermita de la Neustra Señora de la Caridad (Shrine of Our Lady of Charity), his body was driven through the streets of Little Havana to the Cathedral of St. Mary for the funeral Mass and hundreds lined the streets throughout the procession route.

I was able to be present only by deeply disappointing the parents of and confirmandi at the first county-wide celebration of Confirmation in Citrus county history. Since I had asked for the favor of a combined ceremony, it was deeply embarrassing to miss it and I apologize to the parents, sponsors, confirmandi and priests of the county. But I felt I needed to be in Miami to prayerfully say farewell to a great man, priest and bishop. The liturgy was lovely, totally in Spanish, and the Cathedral full to overflowing. The relatively newly appointed Papal Nuncio to the United States of American, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò was also present representing the Holy Father which is unusual for anyone other than cardinals and archbishops of larger sees who die.

When the casket was carried into the Cathedral, the congregation welcomed it with vigorous applause. Several times during the homily of Archbishop Thomas Wenski, the congregation responded with sustained, prolonged applause for their dear bishop. I gazed at the body lieing on the floor of the sanctuary and thought to myself, +Agustín, your legacy is guaranteed and your love will not soon be forgotten.

In the earlier blog, I wrote one of many stories in my mind about the bishop being out very late at night. There was another time when the Spanish Cursillo group would hold large Masses in the Chapel of St. John Vianney College Seminary where I was Rector on Sunday nights. They filled the place every time and when it rained as it often does in South Florida, they thought nothing of driving their cars straight up the lawn from the front entrance to let off or pick up their family members leaving deep tire tracks embedded in the lawn carefully manicured and cared for by the seminarians on their work-list days. One night I had had quite enough and with umbrella in hand I was out scolding those driving on “my” lawn. I knew it would make little behavioral difference but I sure felt better. Bishop Román, the celebrant that evening watched me rant at the cars turning my lawn into a mudpit and when they had left he searched me out in my room to first apologize and then said, “but Bob, remember that grass grows anytime here but the faith was being cultivated tonight and it might not last past your upset.” He was right, as always, and gently chided I took to heart his words and never again thought about whatever they might or might not do when they came to clausura on their (not mine) seminary property. In a quiet moment, I looked down at his casket before the altar and on the floor and quietly said, +Agustín, come to rest whereever you wish.

I needed to be back in St. Petersburg by 6:30pm so a four o’clock return flight was essential. I could not stay with him through the final commendation and transfer to Mercy Cemetary. I shall always regret that in my remaining years. In the first year I was ordained a priest (1978), the crusty old Rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami, Monsignor John Donnelly, said to me once, “young man, you really find out who your friends are if they come to the cemetary. The funeral Mass is easy but the cemetary – there your true friends gather.”

Bishop Román was a saint. He likely will never be officially declared this by the Church but everyone who knew him, was around him, was ministered to by him – we all know it. He sets a standard for episcopal ministry so high that most of us do not have even a chance. I shall always be grateful that even if only for a short while in my priestly life, in Miami, he and I walked the same aisles, myself unworthy even to tie his shoe. Rest in peace, +Agustín.

+RNL

DEATH COMES TO BISHOP ROMAN

Saturday, April 14th, 2012
 
*This blog was first posted on the diocesan website on Thursday, April 12, 2012*

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Agustín Román in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Miami, Florida. Photo provided by the Archdiocese of Miami.

I was enjoying a perfectly wonderful evening tonight when a phone call to a priest friend in Miami brought me the news that one of my episcopal idols had been called home to the Father earlier in the evening. Bishop Agustín Román, for thirty-one years the auxiliary bishop of Miami died tonight, reportedly in his car at the very Shrine to Our Lady of Charity, which he erected, staffed, and called home for over forty-six years. Eighty-three years old last night, he was to Miami’s Cuban community their “bishop.” They loved him, they adored him and they will miss him greatly. And already I feel his loss as well.

Bishop Román was expelled from Cuba after being briefly imprisoned by Fidel Castro shortly after the revolution in the early sixties. Placed by government authorities in the hold of a ship, he was packed off to Spain. Soon he would come to Venezuela to continue his ministry but very shortly thereafter landed in Miami. Accepted into the priestly ministry there by Archbishop Coleman Francis Carroll, Miami’s first bishop and its first archbishop, Father Román’s ministry was immediately to the exile community, the great diaspora. For them he built a shrine to the Ermita de la Caridad, the Blessed Mother and the shrine and its altar faced the direction of Cuba. Thousands would come each week to pray to the Blessed Mother for family and friends back in the homeland. Bishop Román’s arsenal against the army and government of Fidel Castro consisted of only one weapon – prayer. He was tireless in his ministry to the exile community and he became their priest and eventually their bishop.

In 1978, Miami’s second archbishop, Edward A. McCarthy sought the appointment of two priests as auxiliary bishops, John J. Nevins who was to become the first bishop of the diocese of Venice and Agustín A. Román who died last night. The Miami Beach Convention Center was filled that day with thousands of Cuban there to cheer and pray for this nation’s first Cuban-born bishop, their friend and their priest, Agustin Román. Ever humble, the new bishop was embarrassed at first by the trappings and expectations of office. Entrusted with the pastoral care not just of the Cubans who would soon experience a second invasion of people driven from their native country by the Cuban government, Bishop Román spent endless hours at the Krome Avenue detention facility where Cubans and Haitians seeking freedom could be found. For many Cubans and Haitians his was the first face of priestly ministry they would see in this new country, county and city to which they had fled.

One night when I was the Rector of the college seminary in Miami, I took a seminarian to the emergency room of Mercy Hospital on Miami’s Biscayne Bay and next to the Cuban Shrine to Our Lady. When we were discharged at 2:15 in the morning and were driving back to the seminary, a car pulled along side mine at a traffic light and inside was Bishop Román, praying the rosary in one hand and headed out to the Krome Avenue detention facility I was certain. I recall saying to the college seminarian in the car with me, “I wish I could be half the priest as that man is.” His office hours were when ever anyone needed his priestly presence, regardless of the hour or the inconvenience.
He remained a Cuban citizen all his life and never sought, to the best of my knowledge, a US passport because he did not wish to turn his back in any way on the country of his birth. But, he also vowed that he would never personally return to his beloved homeland until Castro was gone and the people once again free. Several pilgrimages were subsequently arranged by the Archdiocese of Miami to Cuba for papal visits and although never publicly critical of the decision to go there, he never went. His public opposition to the Cuban government never reached the decibel level of the exile community who surrounded him, but they knew that in his heart he mourned the absence of religious freedom in Cuba and the ensuing poverty visited upon his beloved people. He was their bishop and they were his people. There are few priests about whom other priests do not have something sometimes unkind and uncharitable to say, but to a person, Miami’s priests acknowledged that Agustín Román was an extraordinary example and witness to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Leaving Miami for me to come to St. Petersburg was hard in many ways when it occurred and a part of that sense of loss was leaving Bishop Román, even though we would now both be brothers in the episcopacy. Holy, Humble, Hard Working were the marks of this rather small of stature man but his witness to the Gospel was outsized. His wisdom, counsel and guidance to me prior to my ordination was simply this: “Bob, make yourself always present to the people as Jesus did.” Bishop Román never failed in that but I have from time to time.

Agustín, you went gently into the night this evening, coming back from an act of service and kindness and our God allowed you to safely park your car at your beloved shrine before calling you to Himself. I will always love you. I will always miss you. Until we are together again, thank you for your incredible example of how a bishop should serve his people. Rest in peace.

+RNL

PER CRUCEM AD LUCEM

Monday, April 9th, 2012

It is Easter Monday as I write this and I had some time yesterday to think about Holy Week, the Tridium and Easter for a reason which I will conclude with. I think this has been one of the best Holy Weeks I have experienced in the thirty-four years of my priestly ministry. For one thing, I preached everything from Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil. Preaching enforces a certain discipline on a person to concentrate more fully and deeply on the meaning of that which is celebrated and proclaimed. I am very sensitive that because I am the bishop and therefore ipso facto the pastor of the Cathedral parish, I therefore cruise into every major event in the life of the parish and take over from the priests who serve there 24/7/366 [this year]. They get neither the chance to be the principal celebrants of the liturgy nor preach Christmas, Easter, etc. So most years I ask the priests to take one of the days of Holy Week and at least preach it. This year they did not get that chance.

For about three weeksI have been meditating and thinking about the theme per crucem ad lucem or as it is translated into English, “through the cross to the light.” So beginning with Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday I attempted in preaching to lead the people through the cross to the light. I also made it the principal refrain of my Chrism Mass homily which you may have read on this blogspot. I was drawn by the stark contrast between Mark’s passion account read on Palm Sunday and John’s account of the same events read on Good Friday. Mark’s passion account is all darkness, defeat almost. The last words of Jesus are “my God, my God why have you abandoned me?” In John, Jesus controls his final hours. He places Pilate, the religious leaders of his time, his friends on trial and does not allow himself to be placed on trial. His penultimate words are to Mary, his mother, and to John, entrusting us to her and her to him. And when he has decided he has had enough, he controls the moment and says, “it is finished.” Two markedly different approaches to the cross were on display this week, one seemingly suffered and the other seemingly embraced. In the crosses of our life, we more often than not have options also – to suffer them or to embrace them. Both can lead to the light which follows most suffering.

At the Easter Vigil of course I was ready to proclaim as the Liturgy of the Vigil had just done – the light. Earlier in the day I had learned of the death of the American artist Thomas Kincaide who as a Christian believer proclaimed that he was an “artist of the light”. His simple paintings adorn walls, napkins, coffee cups, and are said to have brought in 100 million dollars a year. Imagine all of that for simply showing gardens and fields and churches and cottages in the light. How much more light we have as a result of the events of that first Easter when the women (the men were still in hiding for fear of their lives we are told) discover the empty tomb. The full meaning of that moment will not be totally appreciated until next Sunday’s Gospel account of the immediate appearance to the disciples in the upper room and then the wonderful Emmaeus story. I think, well more humbly, I hope I was able to verbally trace a path through suffering to light for those in attendance at the Cathedral and I am sure that whose who journeyed with us throughout Holy Week are tired of hearing per crucem ad lucem. My thanks to the Rector, Father Joseph Waters and to his associate Father Ken Breen for their patience with me and to all the musicians, altar servers, sacristans and countless others who put themselves out, not for the bishop this last week, but for Jesus.

I ended Holy Week by spending Easter Sunday on the “throne.” By some accident of scheduling, a fault all of my own, I scheduled a colonoscopy for Monday morning at eight o’clock. That meant no food and other distractions all of Easter Sunday and especially in the afternoon and evening. Since my long period of illness began in my colon, an ounce of precaution is worth a lot more than a pound of cure, believe me. Last year, only thirteen months after surgery, there was yet another polyp found and removed. Today, it was all clear. I share this with you because I so intensely believe that with care and regular examinations, colon cancer can be avoided and if caught early enough can be survived. There are too many stories which can cause people to avoid colonoscopy check-ups and I am here to tell you that they are not true. The day of preparation is not nearly as bad as it once was (I know because I have experienced the older prep and the newer prep) and the procedure is simple and safe. Thanks to the wonderful Rays yesterday and an exciting Masters golf tournament, I did not miss Easter dinner and today I learned that it is only through this small cross of prepping that one can come to the light of being found clear of colon cancer. If you are older than fifty and have not had a screening and if you have had a screening but it has been some time ago, please, please see your specialist and inquire if it is time. Bet you didn’t think I would end my Easter reflections in this manner.

Happy Easter season to all. He is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia.

+RNL

PRICE OF OIL REMAINS THE SAME AS LAST YEAR!

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The opening prayer. My brother priests celebrating 25 and 40 years of priesthood are on the altar to my right, with half of my brother priests in attendance behind them (the other half in attendance were behind those celebrating their 50th and 60th years of priesthood to my left). Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

This morning was the annual Chrism Mass for the diocese at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg. It is one of my favorite moments in my service as bishop as all my brother priests gather together annually publicly to recommit themselves to their priestly ministry, and the oil of the catechumens, infirm and sacred chrism are blessed in the case of the first two and consecrated in the case of the third. The Cathedral is always packed as each parish sends representatives, at least one for each of the oils and priests and deacons are present in great number. I have always thought that our diocesan Office of Worship as well as the staff of the Cathedral really knock themselves out to provide a glorious liturgy which makes all present proud. A large choir gathered from the parishes of the diocese sing their hearts out as well. There is nothing like a full Cathedral, brother priests united with me in our privileged and blessed ministry, the singing of the “Gloria” sneaking back into Liturgy having largely been absent for these thirty-eight days of Lent to reassure all present that the Church remains vibrant and strong.

Blessing the Oil of the Sick. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

I mentioned above that the oils in use throughout the coming year are either blessed or consecrated during this annual Mass. The Oil of Catechumens is used at baptism as the first of the two sacred oils which are parts of this sacrament of initiation. The Oil of the Infirm is used only during the administration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Both of these oils come from a type of Olive Oil and they are blessed both in large urns and also in other containers brought today from the parishes and held up during the part of the ceremony which comprises the blessing (following the promise of recommitment of the priests and the homily.) Olive oil was both precious but plentiful at the time of our Lord and when mention was made yesterday in the Gospel for Monday of Holy Week of Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus breaking out a precious alabaster jar and anointing the feet of Jesus, one senses its intrinsic value in Jewish life two thousand years ago. Sacred Chrism is the same olive oil to which is added a perfume, making it even richer. Used in ancient times to anoint kings, chrism has a special place in the life of our Church today. It is an integral part of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and ordination to the priesthood and to the episcopacy (in the former the ordaining bishop anoints the palms of the hands of the one just ordained as a priest and in the latter, the ordaining bishop pours the oil over the head of the man being ordained as a bishop). There is only one other moment in Church life when the oil of Sacred Chrism is used for something other than the administration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders and that  is when an altar is consecrated in a new Church or a remodeled Church and in the case of the former, it is also used on the walls of a totally new Church. The Cathedral asks for a small stipend of each parish to cover the cost of the oils/perfume and that has remained the same ever since I arrived (making me perhaps the only oil producing leader who has not raised oil prices in sixteen years).

Breathing into the urns holding the oil. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Finally, at one point during the consecration of the Sacred Chrism, the bishop breathes into the urns holding the oil. Approaching seventy one years of age, I notice that the length of time I am able to breathe is becoming less and less with each passing year. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Chrism Mass (and it still is in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica) was celebrated on Holy Thursday morning and the priests had to rush out immediately for their parishes to prepare for the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper later that night. After the Council it began to be moved from that date to another day either in Holy Week or the week just prior because of distances to be travelled. Think of this for a moment. The Diocese of St. Petersburg and its five counties (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus) is only 4,500 square miles roughly. My friend Bishop Paul Etienne who  is the bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming has the whole state or 100,000 square miles. Some parishes drive six hours to attend the Chrism Mass there. I am so lucky in so many ways, including and especially the priests and deacons who share the mantle of pastoral ministry and leadership with me. If you are in search of cheap oil but rich in symbol, cast a glance at the ambery in your parish where the oils are displayed and thank the Lord for this great sign of blessing and consecration.

Finally, click here if you wish to read my homily at today’s Mass of the Chrism. You can click here to watch the video of it. To see more photos taken during the Chrism Mass, click here. More Thursday on the first night of the Triduum.

+RNL