Keeping Jesus in your pocket

At the annual Chrism Mass April 11, Archbishop Gregory Aymond extended the exhortation of Pope Francis for Catholics to read the Gospels daily – making that more of a priority than checking their cell phones. About 1,200 “pocket Gospels” were handed out after Mass. 

Check ‘pocket Gospels’ as often as your cell phone

The Chrism Mass is an annual liturgy in which the priests serving in the Archdiocese of New Orleans renew their commitment to priestly ministry. It’s also the Mass in which you bless the three types of oils that will be used in sacramental ministry for the coming year. But you decided to throw in a surprise this year?
Yes. I read a remark Pope Francis made during Lent to young people. He told them he understood how often they checked their cell phones every day, and he just wondered if they could stay as close to the Word of God as they are to their cell phones. His comments hit home with me. I had seen a small booklet of the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles that’s been published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s not a very big book, and it can easily fit inside anyone’s back pocket. But this was just about a week before the Chrism Mass. We called around to see if it was available locally in large quantities, but we decided to get in touch with the USCCB in Washington, D.C., and see if they might be able to ship it in bulk to us. We figured we would need about 1,200 copies if we wanted to hand it out to everyone who attended the Chrism Mass. We ordered the copies and then we tracked the shipment every day to see where it was in transit. The “pocket Gospels” arrived in New Orleans on the day before the Mass!

What was the reaction of the people who received the Gospel booklet?
I think they were very pleased to receive something like that, and I hope they will carry it with them regularly and take the time to read it whenever they have a break in their busy day. By doing that, they might be able to let go of their cell phones for a few minutes. They might just have two, three or four minutes, but that’s enough time to read a short chapter or even a few verses and let the words sink in and touch their hearts.

After the Mass, several students asked you to autograph the inside cover of their booklets. Now you know how Jack Nicklaus feels!
I was surprised by the requests, but I was very happy to sign the books. I just hope this is something that may help them in their Christian journey.

What did you say about this during your homily?
I tried to get across the point that when we read the Gospel, it’s not just reading the words for intellectual understanding. The Gospel touches our hearts, and we learn more about our brother Jesus. The Holy Father has said that in reading the Gospels and incorporating the message of the Gospel into our lives, we truly are becoming the anointed of God. That’s why I wanted to extend the invitation of Pope Francis to everyone inside the cathedral. I want people to keep the booklet in their pocket and check it more than they check their cell phones – or at least as often as they check their cell phones. Let the words in this Gospel book touch their hearts and become flesh. Surprisingly, even some of the tourists asked for a copy!

There were so many students at the Mass that some had to go upstairs to the lofts above the sacristy.
Yes, the congregation for the Chrism Mass keeps getting bigger each year. This year we had almost 900 guests. I’m thankful that our school administrators have made a point of bringing their students here for this special liturgy. It’s not often that the students can participate in a Mass where the sacramental oils are blessed and when so many priests – we had about 170 – are here in such big numbers, renewing their priestly commitment. I’m so proud of the young church. They are also the anointed ones of God. I thank them for their faith and for their efforts to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus. It’s so easy to go with the crowd and think that attending Mass each week or talking about Jesus is not a cool thing to do. These young adults continue to tell us that God is important in their lives, and that gives us hope as a church. I keep them always in my prayers and in my heart.

Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org

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