Oils blessed at Chrism Mass touch lives all year

| March 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

Priests in attendance will renew promises they made on ordination day

Deacon Paul Tschann, left, and Deacon Thomas Michaud carry the oil that was blessed by Archbishop John Nienstedt during the Chrism Mass last year at the Cathedral of St. Paul.  Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Deacon Paul Tschann, left, and Deacon Thomas Michaud carry the oil that was blessed by Archbishop John Nienstedt during the Chrism Mass last year at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

The annual Chrism Mass, at which Archbishop John Nienstedt will bless the holy oils to be used locally for sacraments this coming year, is set for 7 p.m., March 19 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Among the oils to be blessed is chrism, a fragranced oil that only a bishop can consecrate and which is used during baptisms, confirmations and the ordinations of priests and bishops.

“The way I like to describe it is that chrism is used in all of the sacraments that change a soul forever,” said Father John Paul Erickson, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

Chrism is also used during the dedication and consecration of churches and altars.

The other oils to be blessed at the Mass are the oil of catechumens, which is used for infant baptisms and in some of the preparatory rites for catechumens as they prepare for baptism and initiation into the Catholic Church, and the oil of the sick, used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

Also, during the Mass, the priests in attendance will be asked to stand following the homily and renew the promises they made on their ordination day.

“This part of the Mass is very moving — to witness these men who again pledge their lives and their love to Jesus and his Church,” Father Erickson said.

Mark your calendarWhat: Chrism Mass
When: 7 p.m., March 19
Where: Cathedral of St. Paul, 239 Selby Ave., St. Paul

Connection to priesthood

The Chrism Mass is traditionally associated with Holy Thursday, with the blessing of the oils taking place at a morning Mass followed by an evening Mass recalling Jesus’ institution of the priesthood and Eucharist at the Last Supper.

“The oil, which is traditionally consecrated on the birthday of the priesthood, shows that connection between the priesthood, which is so easily seen as connected to the Eucharist, and the celebration of these other sacraments,” he said.

However, because of the demands of Holy Week and the distance some priests and parishioners must travel, many dioceses, including the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, typically celebrate the Chrism Mass in the days before Holy Week, he said.

Procession and blessing


The holy oils at St. John Neumann are housed in a wall cupboard called an ambry. The vessels contain chrism (orange streak), oil of catechumens (blue streak) and oil of the sick (purple streak). Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

The archdiocese has a custom of having people who represent the charism of each oil carry it as part of the procession at Mass.

Youth who are receiving the sacrament of confirmation this year will process in with the chrism, Father Erickson said. A couple expecting a child will come forward with the oil of catechumens. Individuals who work in the health care field will bring up the oil of the sick.

Additionally, a seminarian preparing for ordination to the priesthood will come forward with the perfume — typically balsam — that will be mixed with the chrism to give it its special fragrance.

“It really does show the powerful reality of these sacraments and the blessings that are imposed on the oil,” Father Erickson said. “They’re not just symbolic. They really will affect people’s lives in radical ways.”

Each oil is blessed during a different part of the Mass. The oil of the sick, for example, is blessed within the context of the Eucharistic Prayer.

“It’s a beautiful way of showing the connection between the sick and infirmed and the offering of the sacrifice,” he said. “We believe that by means of the anointing with the oil of the sick, those who are sick are strengthened to offer up their sacrifices in union with the sacrifice of Calvary made sacramentally present upon the altar.”

When it’s time to consecrate the chrism, Archbishop Nienstedt will pour the special fragrance into the oil and blow on it. Just as God the Father blew upon the waters of the earth, “so, too, the Church sees this image as a sign of God re-creating the world and elevating the broken world up into divine life and making it bear His own divine grace.”

All are welcome

Everyone in the archdiocese is invited and encouraged to attend the Mass, Father Erickson said.

“Anyone who has a grandmother who is going to be anointed this year, anyone who is going in for surgery this year, anyone who is presenting a child for baptism, anyone who is walking with a child or grandchild for confirmation — all of these oils will quite clearly affect their life,” he said. “To be there for their blessing is a great gift and a great opportunity.”

Furthermore, he added, “To come to a celebration like this, which bears witness to the whole body of Christ, is a great affirmation of our community in Jesus. It’s also a great way of showing our support for our priests. It’s an evening in which [we] will renew our promises, and we as priests need the support and love of God’s holy people.”

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