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Catholic Voice
  April 6, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Blessed Chrism oils can provide healing, strength


Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

We celebrated the Chrism Mass recently, in which I blessed the holy oils for use in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and Anointing of the Sick. It is one of the most solemn and well-attended Masses of the Liturgical year.

To consecrate the sacred chrism, I breathed on the oil, to impart the Holy Spirit — as Jesus breathed on the disciples to give them the Holy Spirit — following His resurrection.

As the designated parishioners and parish priests carried the holy oils home following the Mass, I couldn't help thinking of all the people who would be healed, blessed and strengthened by being anointed. Sometimes when people go through a period of suffering: whether it's physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, they might be tempted to turn on God. Or maybe doubt His existence. Sometimes people ask me: "Why isn't God taking my suffering away?" The anointing with the holy oils in the various sacraments of initiation and healing helps us bear the cross we are given in life.

Some years ago the famous CBS television show "60 Minutes" did a segment on the shrine of Lourdes in France.

They documented the pilgrimage of a 12-year-old American girl suffering from a paralysis, who was in a wheelchair. "60 Minutes" showed the girl and her family going through the religious exercises at Lourdes: the Candlelight Rosary Procession, the Blessed Sacrament Procession, the outdoor Stations of the Cross, the large Masses in the underground basilica and the visit to the confessional.

Bishop Barber mixes balsam and sweet perfume into the oil.
ALBERT C. PACCIORINI/THE CATHOLIC VOICE

On the last day of the pilgrimage, the girl went to "The Baths" where pilgrims are wrapped in a sheet and lowered into a pool of "Lourdes Water" coming from the miraculous spring discovered by St. Bernadette at the direction of the Blessed Mother. The cave next to the spring is filled with crutches from those who have been miraculously cured on the spot.

Just before the girl was lowered into the water, the female attendant asked her to close her eyes and make her prayer request to God. Then they lowered her into the water, in a type of "baptism by immersion" (even though it is not a baptism).

On coming out of the water they gave her a small statue of Mary to kiss. Then she got dressed in a tent. (I used to work at Lourdes as a chaplain, and I have gone through this exercise many times. It is quite exhilarating.)

"60 Minutes" filmed everything. On the last day of the pilgrimage, as the girl and her family were packing to go home, the television anchor spoke with the girl, still in her wheelchair, and asked her "Aren't you disappointed that you didn't get cured this week?" The girl shook her head and said "No." The anchorman found that hard to believe, and pressed on: "Do you mind if I ask you what you prayed for when you were lowered into the Holy Water?"

Signaling with her hand, the girl beckoned the reporter close, as she didn't want her family to hear. The child whispered to the man: "I prayed for my dad, as he has a bad back from pushing my wheelchair around all these years."

Even though this young girl's paralysis was not cured, she was given a marvelous grace to bear her cross with love, in union with the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.



Representatives of the diocese's 84 parishes carried their banners into the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
ALBERT C. PACCIORINI/THE CATHOLIC VOICE

Singers from the Korean Community Choir shared their gift of music.
ALBERT C. PACCIORINI/THE CATHOLIC VOICE

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