Cardinal Donald Wuerl, joined by the auxiliary bishops and hundreds of priests of the Archdiocese of Washington, celebrated a March 26 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington.

The annual Mass, traditionally celebrated during Holy Week, commemorates the founding of the priesthood by Christ. It is during this Mass each year that priests renew their priestly promises. Also during Mass, the special oils that all parishes in the archdiocese will use to administer the sacraments during the upcoming year were consecrated.

Joining Cardinal Wuerl at the Mass were Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington; Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States; Washington Auxiliary Bishops Mario Dorsonville and Roy Campbell Jr.; and about 200 priests. Also in attendance were hundreds of deacons, men and women religious, and seminarians of the archdiocese.

Calling the Chrism Mass “a unique moment, a special moment in Holy Week,” the cardinal said it was a time “when our attention is focused on the priesthood and the renewal of our sacred promise.” He reminded the priests that God’s kingdom “is being manifest in you” and they must bring that message “in the parishes where you serve the people you love, where the sacraments are administered.”

The Mass’s readings included the passage from Revelation in which Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega … the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” and the Gospel of Luke where Jesus proclaims in the synagogue that the prophecy of Isaiah “is fulfilled in your hearing.” Referring to those Scripture readings, Cardinal Wuerl said Jesus “tried to help people understand and embrace who He is.”

He added that priests continue to do that when they help the faithful “grasp, accept, understand and appropriate” the teachings of Christ. “Jesus’s life is our example … in fleshing out our pastoral ministry,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Wuerl also praised his brother priests for their “quiet, persistent and unfailing caring” for the people of God. He said that even when priests “encounter minds focused elsewhere” and “those not prepared to accept” the message of the Church, “our task, our mission is the presentation of Church teaching.”

Speaking to the many seminarians in attendance at the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl told them that “it is a great joy to have you here knowing you represent the future of ministry in our archdiocese.”

Prior to leading the priests – whom he called “beloved sons” – in the renewal of their priestly promises, he asked them to recall “all the joy that comes from living the mystery of revelation.” The priests, in turn, renewed their promise “to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching.”

Addressing the laity at the Mass as “my dearest sons and daughters,” Cardinal Wuerl urged them to “pray for your priests, that the Lord may pour out His gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as the ministers of Christ, the High Priest.”

The oils blessed and consecrated at the Mass will be used for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick in the upcoming year in parishes throughout the archdiocese. The oils will also be used during the sacrament of Holy Orders, when new priests are ordained.

The sacred oils, Cardinal Wuerl said, “are a sign of our unity with Christ who works among us through the sacraments.”

The cardinal’s Holy Week schedule at St. Matthew’s Cathedral will continue on Holy Thursday, March 29, when he will celebrate a Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 5:30 p.m. at the cathedral, where he will wash the feet of 12 people, just as Christ washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper.

On Good Friday, March 30, the cardinal will celebrate a Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Veneration of the Cross at St. Matthew’s at 1 p.m.

Cardinal Wuerl will celebrate an Easter Vigil Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Saturday March 31 at 8 p.m., and people preparing to become Catholic will be baptized and confirmed at the Mass, joining 1,300 adults, teens and children across the archdiocese who will become full members of the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil Masses.

Then on April 1, the cardinal will celebrate Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. at the cathedral and at noon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The basilica Mass will be broadcast live by EWTN, the Eternal Word Television Network, and the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.