In his homily at the annual Chrism Mass, Archbishops Richard Smith urged priests to have the smell of their sheep.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

In his homily at the annual Chrism Mass, Archbishops Richard Smith urged priests to have the smell of their sheep.

April 28, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Priests must acquire the smell of sheep by being close to their flock and attentive to their needs, Archbishop Richard Smith said, relying heavily on an image popularized by Pope Francis.

Speaking to a large crowd from every parish in the Edmonton Archdiocese at the April 14 Chrism Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica, Smith challenged priests to go out of themselves to be close to their people and to make their flock's difficulties, fears and pain their own.

"The priest must not only know his people but also be known by them as one who is close and available, willing to step into their reality and share it with them."

During the Chrism Mass, Smith thanked the Lord for the gift of the priesthood and blessed the sacred oils that will be used in sacraments celebrated across the archdiocese.

Archbishop Richard Smith prepares the three sacred oils.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Richard Smith prepares the three sacred oils.

Like Jesus, who was sent by God to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed, "priests too are sent," the archbishop said in his homily. "Those who accept this willingly and respond wholeheartedly will indeed acquire the smell of the sheep."

FRAGRANT AROMA

However, it was not the unpleasant smell of sheep that saturated the basilica that day. It was the fragrant aroma of balsam. "This is the perfume that I will add this evening to the oil of chrism prior to its consecration," the archbishop explained.

Smith said the priest's unique and indispensable share in the mission of the Lord is exercised by his preaching of the Word, his celebration of the sacraments and, above all, those of Eucharist and Penance.

That mission also includes his prophetic words and actions both to and on behalf of his people, especially the poor.

"This is a beautiful ministry and way of life, yet each priest here knows that it is not without its challenges."

PROPHETIC ROLE

In our day, Smith said, the difficulties are felt most acutely with respect to the prophetic dimension of the priestly call.

"Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time on a sheep farm knows well that a person who walks around smelling like sheep is not particularly welcome company. He will be invited to stay outside, preferably at some distance," the archbishop pointed out.

After Mass, Archbishop Smith distributes the oils to parish representatives, including this grpoup from Our Lady of the Prairies Parish in Daysland.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

After Mass, Archbishop Smith distributes the oils to parish representatives, including this grpoup from Our Lady of the Prairies Parish in Daysland.

This, he said, can help explain why the voice of the Church, spoken by her priests, is not welcome when it reminds people or societies of human suffering to which they have grown indifferent.

"A priest who is close to his people and steps into their pain cannot help but speak and act on their behalf. By such action he spreads the fragrant aroma of the Gospel, yet it is received as something offensive to the senses," he lamented.

ARCHBISHOP MACNEIL

Smith extended his gratitude to deacons, religious and lay people who were present at the Mass. He also paid homage to Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil who celebrated his 90th birthday April 15.

"You are an exemplary priest," the archbishop told MacNeil. "You don't smell bad, but you do, indeed, have the smell of the sheep."

Immediately after the Mass, Smith greeted representatives from each parish in the archdiocese and gave them small vials of the Oil of Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and Oil of Chrism.