‘The way of Christ, king and priest, is not metaphorical, not mere words,’ Archbishop Peter A Comensoli said on Wednesday 20 March, during the 2024 Chrism Mass. ‘It is real; it is his life.’

At St Patrick’s Cathedral, nearly 200 priests gathered for the annual Chrism Mass, an ancient liturgy during which the oils used for sacraments in the year ahead are blessed by the Archbishop in communion with the priests of the diocese.

Among other things, celebrating the Chrism Mass so close to Easter highlights the Church’s belief that the grace of the sacraments ultimately stems from the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection.

‘The oils we bless today point to the anointing we are to share in Christ,’ Archbishop Comensoli said. ‘Jesus accepted and lived out what it means to be God’s anointed and sent … he gives us the shape of what it is to be a royal and priestly Church.’

The Chrism Mass also has strong ties to the priesthood. While the laity renew their baptismal vows during the Easter celebrations, it is during the Mass of the Oils that the priests, gathered with the bishop, renew the vows made at ordination. It is a moving time of fraternity and prayer for the clergy of the Archdiocese as they renew their common mission together.

One of the participating priests, Fr Arnold Heredia, who is now retired, said, ‘This is a very, very meaningful occasion … The very basis of my priesthood is [that] I survive by being with other priests. Any time there’s a gathering of priests, for whatever reason, I always try and make it.

‘It’s a very, very strong witness of what we stand for, and a strong assurance for the laity that we have a clergy who administer the sacraments to them.’

To whom we go, and how we go, matters. If we do not go out by way of good news to the poor, then we do not go out by way of Christ.

Fr Ralph Besterwitch SAC, parish priest at St Christopher’s Syndal and Holy Saviour Glen Waverley North, also reflected afterwards on what a moving experience it was.

‘To me, this is a very important occasion for us priests and for me personally,’ he said. ‘I see this as an opportunity to share in our priestly ministry that we are all gifted with … I thank God for my priesthood, to be really able to touch so many people’s lives in and through that.’

‘It means that I can say “yes” again to the service,’ Fr Jaycee Napoles, assistant priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral, said, ‘and “yes” again to the people I minister to … Just to be amongst [my] brothers again, to see them, was great.’

The deacons of the Archdiocese were also present. Jean-Sébastien Géry was ordained to the transitional deaconate in November 2023, and he said that the Chrism Mass was a moving experience, especially as he is preparing for final ordination to the priesthood.

‘What has touched me today was when we all prayed together, especially when we had to renew our vows, our promises,’ he said. ‘It was a great sign of hope and ongoing formation to hear that. It’s a great sign of hope.’

Archbishop Comensoli also reflected on the way the Chrism Mass encompasses the whole Church.

‘The whole Church in Melbourne is in one way or another represented here in this gathering: bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people. All of our local Church is here today,’ he said.

He encouraged the clergy to always seek to live more deeply according to the way of Christ, who was himself anointed and sent.

‘He is the Anointed and Sent. And not just anointed and sent, but anointed and sent, shaped and destined, for good news—to the poor, to captives, to the blind and downtrodden, to all in need, broken, wounded and destined for death.’

‘To whom we go, and how we go, matters. If we do not go out by way of good news to the poor, then we do not go out by way of Christ. May we be a royal, priestly Church in the way of Jesus Christ—bringing forth a time of the Lord’s favour.’