Unique essence of the Catholic priest

The Church of the Immaculate Conception welcomed clergy, religious and the lay faithful of the diocese of Penang for the Chrism Mass on March 18.

Mar 27, 2024

Cardinal Sebastian Francis breathes over the vessel containing the Oil of Chrism.

By Christopher Kushi
The Church of the Immaculate Conception welcomed clergy, religious and the lay faithful of the diocese of Penang for the Chrism Mass on March 18.

The Mass was presided over by Cardinal Sebastian Francis. Concelebrating was Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam, clergy and assisted by the deacons.

In his homily, Cardinal Sebastian encouraged the congregation and clergy to embrace the promises of Scripture as relevant and fulfilled in the present day. He drew attention to the Gospel reading from Luke 4:16-21, where Jesus proclaims His mission to bring good news to the poor, freedom to the captives, and sight to the blind. Cardinal Sebastian emphasised the priest’s role in continuing this mission, particularly highlighting the dedication of the Year 2024 to ‘Prayer’ and the Year 2025 to ‘Hope’.

The sacramental character of the Catholic priest is their uniqueness, said the cardinal, who went on to explain that only ordained Catholic priests can celebrate the three sacraments which is the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Anointing of the Sick. Therefore, the essence of the priesthood is the Eucharist which signifies sacrifice and thanksgiving, the Sacrament of Reconciliation which is forgiveness of sins, and the Anointing of the Sick which is healing for the completion of the mission on earth and healing for eternal life.

Drawing inspiration from saints such as St John Vianney, St Padre Pio, and St Maximilian Kolbe, Cardinal Sebastian emphasised the priestly identity, exemplified by St Maximilian Kolbe’s selfless sacrifice in Auschwitz, who when asked to identify himself before his martyrdom, simply said, “I am a Catholic Priest.” Cardinal Sebastian said that it is enough for, “we priests to identify ourselves simply as a Catholic priest.”

During the Mass, the congregation celebrated as the cardinal blessed the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism which will be used at the Easter vigil and in the coming year.

The Chrism Mass concluded with Cardinal Sebastian presenting the newly minted ‘Priests’ Handbook’ to Fr Victor Louis, chancellor of the diocese. This handbook contains essential norms, policies, and procedures for the clergy, reflecting a collaborative effort between clergy and laity through a synodal process initiated in 2021.

Cardinal Sebastian expressed gratitude to the authors of the 1989 Pastoral Directory for the Clergy of the Catholic Dioceses of Peninsular Malaysia for their contributions to this updated handbook, emphasising the continuity and evolution of pastoral care within the diocese.

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