By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the faithful gathered online for the Diocese of Davenport’s Chrism Mass April 6, broadcast from the library at the St. Vincent Center.
“The Chrism Mass has been a time for the bishop to gather the faithful of the diocese — priests and deacons, religious and laity — around him for the blessing and consecration of the oils that will be used in all our parishes in the coming year,” said Deacon David Montgomery, the diocese’s chancellor and chief of staff, prior to the Mass.
Usually, hundreds of Catholics would attend the Chrism Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. This year, fewer than 10 were present for the Mass, held in the library to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Among them: Bishop Thomas Zinkula; Father Tony Herold, vicar general; Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of liturgy and master of ceremonies; seminarians Dominic Nguyen, Dane Dickinson and Cameron Costello; and Deacon Montgomery.
He expressed gratitude for those “joining us over the internet; and, if not able to do so, in the silent prayer of their hearts.”
Even with few people present, the oil of the sick, used to strengthen and console and heal those who are infirm, will still be blessed. The oil of catechumens, used to strengthen and free those who are preparing for baptism, will still be blessed. The Sacred Chrism, used to ordain bishops and priests, to confirm and to dedicate churches and altars, will still be consecrated. And, “we will still witness the Rite of Recommitment to Ministry by our priests,” Deacon Montgomery said.
Chrism Mass organizers had arranged the library for appropriate social distancing. A small altar stood at one end the room. A table in the middle held the oils to be blessed. During his homily, the bishop said Holy Week focuses on the end of Jesus’ ministry and life — his passion, death and resurrection. In the Gospel passage for the Chrism Mass, “we hear about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.”
“What are the glad tidings that Jesus brings to us today in the midst of the anxiety and adversity of coronavirus pandemic?” the bishop asked. “What is the liberty and release that he offers us as we are held captive in our homes?”
The pandemic is “wreaking havoc in the U.S. and around the world. Why is God doing this to us? Well, God doesn’t cause evil. God didn’t cause coronavirus…. God permits evil at times to bring about a greater good.”
Bishop Zinkula said the COVID-19 pandemic “has focused our attention very quickly on the finiteness and fragility of life.” He referred to Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Moment of Prayer (March 27). The Holy Father said the pandemic exposes “our vulnerability and uncovers the false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, projects, habits and priorities … (It) lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness about what nurtures our souls.” But it has also “uncovered once more, our common humanity, our belonging as brothers and sisters,” the bishop said.
The pandemic “has forced us to quiet down and slow down. It has given us opportunities to remember who we are and to reconnect with the goodness that is within us and in our families, our parishes and our communities.”
He referred to Victor Frankl, an internationally known psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who reflected on the power of choice, among other things. “We don’t get to choose our difficulties, but we do have the freedom to select our responses,” Bishop Zinkula said. “Meaning comes from three things: the work we offer in times of crisis, the love we give and our ability to display courage in the face of suffering.”
Acknowledging the sense of fear that has arisen during the pandemic, the bishop noted that 365 times in Scripture God says “do not be afraid.” The pandemic, “as terrible as it is, has the potential to be a meaningful moment in our individual lives, our families, our parishes, our communities, our nation, our world and our church. God will be with us through it all.”
Father Herold served as proxy for the priests of the diocese in renewal of their priestly promises. He also represented the diocesan community asking the bishop to bless each of the oils. The oils of the sick and catechumens were already bottled and ready for distribution to parishes at a future date. The Sacred Chrism was not bottled.
Bishop Zinkula poured balsam into a large container holding the Chrism and stirred it as he consecrated it. The fragrance of balsam filled the library.
As the Chrism Mass concluded, Bishop Zinkula invited all viewers to join him via Facebook to participate in celebration of the Triduum at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Davenport. The liturgies will be live streamed via the parish’s Facebook page. Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m. April 9; Good Friday, Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at 3 p.m. April 10; and the Easter Vigil at 8:30 p.m. April 11. Go to https://www.facebook.com/stpauldisciples/.
After the Chrism Mass, Bishop Zinkula said he missed seeing the reaction and joy of hundreds of Catholics who would have been present otherwise. “We’ll all remember this Mass.”