Chrism Mass 2022

Archbishop Stephen Brislin celebrated the Mass of the Holy Oils and Renewal of Priestly Commitment at 10.00 am on 14 April 2022 at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Lansdowne. In attendance were priests, deacons, religious and laity from the Archdiocese of Cape Town.

Below are a selection of photographs – as well as Archbishop Brislin’s homily – from the liturgy.

Click on image to enlarge in gallery.

 MASS OF THE HOLY OILS

MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS CATHOLIC CHURCH, LANSDOWNE

14th APRIL 2022

On a few occasions, over the past two years, I have expressed gratitude to the priests of this Archdiocese for the ways in which they have responded to the Covid crisis. They found innovative and creative ways to reach out to their congregations to continue to evangelise, give pastoral care and to sustain hope. They did this despite the difficulties and the psychological impact that the lockdown and the restrictions have had on all of us. Many of them live alone and suffered from a greater sense of loneliness and isolation. Nonetheless they did not give up but persevered in their ministry. On behalf of all, I would like to once again to say “thank you” to all the priests ministering in the Archdiocese for not only coping, but remaining faithful and dedicated to ministry.

By the same token, we are all deeply grateful to our parishioners. We could not have coped so well without the love and care that you have shown to us, not only during these difficult times, but which you show at all times. I have often said that we could never minister effectively without your support. Thank you for your goodwill, your kindness and your generosity. We are well aware of how much you yourselves have struggled and the frustrations you have experienced over the past two years. Thanks be to God, today we can gather with some semblance of normality and to celebrate God’s love and providence for his people.

This mutual care among us is indicative of the beauty and goodness of the Church. There are times when some become negative about the Church, pointing out the things that go wrong, the inadequacies and shortcomings. The Church is made up of people who are all-too-human and the brokenness of our humanity is all-too-evident in the Church. Yet, we are united by Christ and we belong to his Body – we must never be blind to the goodness and the holiness that exists within the Church. Despite all our quirks, differences and sinfulness, we struggle together – priests and people – to serve God and to serve each other with open and willing hearts. Insofar as we do so, we recognize that we are, indeed, a synodal Church, a people chosen by God who journey together, carrying each other’s burdens and sharing our gifts.

The Church is always in need of reform, and we are grateful to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his call for all of us to recognize the need for a renewed commitment to synodality and to embark on a synodal process of listening – listening to the Holy Spirit and listening to each other. Foundationally, the listening must be anchored in prayer and the overriding desire to know and do God’s will – a desire to be faithful to him, to be the people he wishes each of us to be individually, and to be the Church together as he wishes us to be. As we know, it is not about changing doctrine or the teaching of the Church. It is about how we relate to each other, how we respect each other 

and how we recognize the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in each other. It is a remedy to inappropriate exercise of power in the Church, and it is a remedy for clericalism.

An example of the antithesis of synodality can help us better appreciate its importance. In 1951, the apartheid government in South Africa passed a law called the “Group Areas Act”, a law that defined which racial groups could live where, and ensuring the separation of races. As with the other apartheid laws, it was discriminatory, based on racial prejudice and the myth of racial purity of so-called “Whites”. Although the law has long been scrapped, we nonetheless continue to live with the consequences of isolating people into groups and preventing interaction, dialogue and understanding among them.

In South Africa we know about prejudice. Prejudice, in its definition is, “preconceived judgment or opinion”, it is “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge”, and it is “an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics”. Prejudice is prevalent among us, not only as South Africans but across the world. We need only think of vigilante groups in our own and other countries that have led or caused mob violence against refugees and migrants, scapegoating them for crime and unemployment. Any type of “group think”, the “us and them” syndrome, lends itself to prejudice and often a sense of superiority, labeling and dismissive of others. Groups are good and are an essential part of human social life – we all belong to some group or other, but they become negative and destructive when they become “othering”, that is, when they see other groups or individuals as a threat to their group. If would be wonderful if we could, in clear conscience, say that this does not exist in the Church. We have only to read certain blogs to know that that is not the case, that “group think”, othering and prejudice exist in the life of the Church just as in society. The vicious, uncharitable and often deceitful comments by some can never be said to belong to Jesus Christ and the Gospel. They are counter-evangelical, scare-mongering and destructive of the unity for which Christ prayed in his priestly prayer in the Gospel of St John. It is comfortable and comforting for people to fit into a “like-minded” group, and many people seek the security of being with others who are like them and who re-enforce them in their own thinking . When such groups become elitist, exclusive or inconsiderate and intolerant of other ideas or viewpoints, they set themselves up as being superior, more knowledgeable, the ones who are “right” whereas others are “wrong”. They almost become a form of the illuminati. The absence of interaction and dialogue with those of other perspectives ultimately has much the same impact as the apartheid group areas act. People no longer understand each other, they prejudge others do not listen to them, they become suspicious of each other and eventually may define the other as “other”, dehumanizing them and failing to recognize our common humanity.

Today, we priests will renew our priestly commitment. We do so at a time when we are called to willingly and openly support the synod on synodality and to give leadership in guiding the local Church to be a listening Church, open to God’s Holy Spirit speaking to us through the signs of the times. We cannot achieve such a process, and indeed we cannot even sincerely and whole-heartedly renew our priestly promises, if we ourselves are influenced by and act on prejudices, and succumb to ideologies, groupings and cliques which divide rather than unite the Church. The synod, and thus the Church itself for, as St John Chrysostom said, the Church and synod are synonymous, fundamentally recognizes the need for us to grasp the breadth and length, the height and the depth of God’s love (Eph 3:18), a love that is far beyond the imperfections and limitations of human love. No individual, individually, can grasp that love – we can only do it together as Church when we put aside prejudice and are willing to listen, to consider, to reflect, to learn and to move outwards, beyond our narrowness and navel gazing.

As priests, the synod process challenges us to rise above othering, pettiness and the myths which prejudices create, and to witness to Christ’s generosity, love and gentleness – to witness to the embrace of his outstretched arms on the Cross. We rejoice in the diversity and variety with which he has created the human race and for which his Son gave his life. We are meant to be alter Christus to be Christ for others. Our renewal guides us to re-commit to a Christ-like lifestyle, to treating others with politeness and respect, to strive to help bring out goodness in people and to accompany and encourage those we serve as they struggle with the complexities and limitations of human living. It can be easy to slip into arrogance and to allow our pride to be an obstacle to our ministry. Synodality requires humility on the part of all. In our priestly call to humble service, let us renew our lives through a Christian discipline in our lifestyle, in our prayer life, in how we use our time, in what we think and in what we say, in how we use the material things of life. We re-commit ourselves not only to ministry but to be priests in heart, soul, mind, and behaviour.

Thank you all once again. Thank you to all our parishioners, priests, deacons and Religious for your continued love and commitment to the Gospel. We are a synodal Church. Synodality is not absent in the Church, but the time has come to renew it and deepen it. We can only do so, firstly in communion with the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and secondly, in communion with each other, as diverse and as different as we are. May God bless his Church is this endeavour.

+Stephen Brislin
Archbishop of Cape Town