Chrism Mass reminds me of Mam and Dad, even though we never attended one together but it was one of their favourite events of the year. Bishop Eamonn Casey of Galway began the custom of inviting the parents of priests to the Chrism Mass every Holy Thursday and afterwards to lunch in the Sacre Coeur Hotel. They felt honoured and acknowledged. And why shouldn't they be because there is no priesthood without them!
This year for the first time I'm at the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral in Arundel, following a frustrating two-hour drive. Beautiful church, lovely liturgy, magnificent singing! And heart-warming encounters with priests and people I have never met before.
My mind wanders back and forth to my parents, to the other Chrism Masses I attended in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin during my time in Shankill, to those who attended with me – Joan Duignan, Derry, Jaimie, Liam, Pat Maguire. We would go for coffee afterwards.
This is an occasion for the renewing of our priestly commitment in the presence of the Bishop and People and it's for the blessing of the Holy Oils which we will use in the coming year for the blessing and consecrating of the People.
The oil comes from the olive tree, a sacred tree in the history of salvation and a sacred symbol in my own spiritual journey. Many years ago I found myself identifying with this tree and the words of Psalm 52 always resonate with me - "I am like a growing olive tree in the house of God!"
It is a symbol of trust and hope and it is a symbol of surrender, sacrifice and suffering. The three-thousand-year-old olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane that was there for the agony of Jesus found its place in me since the time I saw it.
The fruit of the olive tree is crushed in order to produce the precious oil of anointing and healing. So we too are crushed in order to produce the anointing necessary in our time. It's the way of things, the nature of who we are.
And we are anointed in many ways. In the morning I spent two hours hearing the confessions of year six pupils in Sacred Heart. Not all of them wanted the sacrament and not all of them are Catholics but they came to express something and in blessing them I was blessed myself, came away from them feeling renewed.
When I got back from the school another anointing was waiting to surprise me! In the post I received a Spring Easter card from my youngest niece Laura – the seven-year-old who is not often given to expressions of affection. It was a carefully constructed card made by herself at school and it overflowed inside with hearts and love and began with the words "I miss and love you" and was signed "Lots of Love!"
Even before the Passion has begun I am already touched by Easter! It is like the anointing of Jesus by the woman whose fragrance of love filled the entire house!
May the life of the Risen Christ find new expression in the ordinary experiences of our days!