By Currents News Staff and Bill Miller
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — “Broken, mended, stronger” is how Bishop Robert Brennan characterized his faith to the nearly 300 priests assembled the evening of Tuesday, April 12 for the blessing of the oils at annual Chrism Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Deacons, nuns, seminarians, and laity also attended, filling the co-cathedral for the first time for the Chrism Mass since the pandemic hit New York two years ago.
It was Bishop Brennan’s first time to celebrate the annual event in the Diocese of Brooklyn. This Mass has become a motivational address for the priests, and he delivered.
“Wow, what a sight,” exclaimed Bishop Brennan during his homily. “This is the first time in a couple of years that it is all of us, and that’s thrilling. It’s that sense of happiness and festivity.”
But, Bishop Brennan also noted how the realities of a fallen world are ever-present. For example, he mentioned the subway shooting on Tuesday morning that injured 16 people in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
“We were kind of shaken to our core this morning — weren’t we? — right here in the borough of Brooklyn when violence hit us at home,” Bishop Brennan said.
Meanwhile, he added, “We’re more than a little conscious of people who are experiencing that kind of violence every day. I think of the people in Ukraine and the war, and the violence, the killing. It’s just awful.”
Bishop Brennan was installed last November in the Diocese of Brooklyn after serving as bishop of Columbus, Ohio. Even during his tenure there, the bishop, a native of Long Island, kept informed about the turmoil wrought by COVID-19 back in New York, along with other contentious issues.
“We continue to grapple with issues of racism in our nation and in our communities,” he said. “We live in a state that seems even more intent on attacks against human life. We see tensions at their highest level, and indeed violence still rocks us.”
Yet through it all, the brotherhood of priests has remained faithful, Bishop Brennan said.
Their character reminded him of his crozier, made from Long Island oak. But one day, in the middle of a homily, the heavy staff slid from where he placed it, and it hit the floor with so much force that it cracked at the bend in the “hook.”
A priest from the Marianist community on Long Island, who made the crozier, also repaired it.
“When he gave it back to me, he said, ‘You know, it’s not unlike human bones.’” Bishop Brennan recalled. “Here, where it broke, is now the strongest part of the wood.”
Only a slight “scar” remained where the break had been.
“Here’s what it says to me,” Bishop Brennan said of the scar. “That’s you, that’s me — broken, and mended, and stronger. We all know our own limits, but we were called by someone who knows us better than we know ourselves — by Jesus. Even through our weakness, we’re broken, mended, stronger, and now anointed and sent.
“Fathers, thank you for recognizing your own limits and, in humility, relying on the help and the grace of Jesus Christ. We are all enriched by your ministry, by your service.”
The centerpiece of the Mass was the blessing of oils to be used throughout the year in the Diocese of Brooklyn for anointing of the sick, baptisms, confirmations, and the ordinations of priests.
Also, as part of the Chrism Mass tradition, priests and deacons of the diocese renewed their promise of obedience to the bishop.
The Mass also was a salute to jubilarians — priests who are celebrating milestones in their priestly lives. There are priests in the diocese marking the anniversaries of their ordinations, including the 70th, 65th, 60th, 50th, and 25th anniversaries.
The clergy present were uplifted by this year’s Chrism Mass experience.
“I thought the Mass was absolutely beautiful,” said Father Henry Torres, administrator of Mary of Nazareth Parish in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. “It was good to see so many of my brother priests together once again. The homily was powerful! I was really moved by his words, ‘Broken, mended, and stronger for it.’”
Father Dwayne Davis said the Mass “was truly a night for the history books” and “one of the best turnouts that I can remember.”
Father Davis is the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Flatlands, Brooklyn.
“The bishop’s homily was so good and fitting,” he added. “ He inspired us to recognize who we are and that we are in need of God’s mercy and grace because we can’t do it by ourselves.
“His story was so personal, which draws you into the homily. You could hear the amens from the back of the cathedral.”