WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

The imagination of the prophet


Fr Kevin Neal

Fr Kevin Neal

The Chrism Mass or Mass of the Oils (on May 26 this year) is among the delights of living at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

People travel for hundreds of kilometres to attend this ceremony for the distribution of the oils and to say thanks to the priests for their lives in service for the people. They arrive in plenty of time for the tea that is put on for them after their drive. Some won’t get home until well after midnight.

Some people come in their school uniforms, others will have left their farm for a day, some come from the city while others are old enough to need a walking stick – to collect the oils their parish will use in the following year to anoint the sick, baptise, confirm.

All gather around the bishop and priests at this Mass. There wouldn’t be too many reasons why the people of Wairoa in northern Hawke’s Bay come together with the people of Waitara in Taranaki on the western side of the island, but for this Mass, they do.

I hope everyone gets the chance to take part in at least one Mass of the Oils in their lifetime.

In his homily, Bishop Charles Drennan made the point that the volunteers were as plentiful as ever at all levels of the church and the young people seem to be raring to fill in the blanks as always.

What was missing, he said, was imagination. I think that has been a missing link for some years and is visible at all sorts of levels, including religious and priestly vocations.

His comment reminded me of a book I read about 30 years ago, called The Prophetic Imagination, by American Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. I sort of understood the book at the time but Bishop Charles’s homily has given wings to its concepts.

This prophetic imagination is enlivened today with the election of the new pope. No one knows why, but everyone seems to feel two metres taller that they did, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

Pope Francis has helped us rediscover our imagination and when that happens we are an unstoppable force for good.

We haven’t got a clue what we will be called on to do in the new/old church but we’re ready to give it a go.