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Lutherans Join in Ancient Blessing of Oils Rite

March 25, 1989|RUSSELL CHANDLER and JOHN DART | Times Staff Writers

Lutheran pastors renewed their vows and their bishop blessed oils in a Holy Week service that is more traditional in Roman Catholic and Episcopal Church dioceses.

Bishop J. Roger Anderson of Los Angeles, who oversees 158 Southern California congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, said the rite is infrequently conducted in Lutheran churches.

"It is not seen as essential, but it has become an option in an attempt to restore some of the ancient services," said Anderson, who led a similar service last year. This year's ceremony on Thursday was at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Rowland Heights.

As in the Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches, the renewal of vows by the clergy is voluntary. The service also incorporates a blessing of oils to be used in the coming year for anointing the sick and in other rites.

Episcopal Bishop Frederick H. Borsch of Los Angeles presided over the annual rites Tuesday before about 150 priests at St. Luke's Church in Monrovia.

In the Catholic ceremony Monday night at St. Vibiana Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony blessed the oil--filling three large silver urns--to be used in parish baptisms and confirmations, anointing the sick and ordaining priests.

During the Mass, about 300 of the archdiocese's 1,280 priests, plus deacons and members of men's and women's religious orders, renewed their commitment to faithfully proclaim the Gospel and serve the church.

As the priests and bishops processed down the center aisle, about a dozen demonstrators carrying signs and holding candles stood outside the cathedral protesting the Catholic Church's ban on women priests.

"Now is the oil of women's ordination being crushed and refined. When will it be blessed?" one sign proclaimed.

"The hierarchy refuses us but God's Spirit calls us," explained Margaret Arnold. She said the group was part of the Chicago-based National Assembly of Religious Women.

During his homily, or sermon, Mahony referred to the priest shortage and repeated one of his favorite themes:

"I am convinced that Jesus Christ is calling more than enough young men into priestly service in this archdiocese, more than enough young women to go on in religious communities. . . . Jesus tells us prayer and sacrifice and suffering and adoration and petition will bring about all the laborers we need for the harvest."

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