The Catholic Spirit reporter, Pat Norby, offers a personal perspective of the March 27 Chrism Mass.
If music is a messenger to Christ, then we should sing all of our prayers, especially in the Cathedral of St. Paul.
The annual Chrism Mass, March 27, at the Cathedral of St. Paul was a “beautiful liturgy” that displayed the variety and unity in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as promised by Father John Paul Erickson, archdiocesan Worship Office director, in the March 15 Catholic Spirit.
Latin, English and Spanish were used intermittently in the music, and the first reading, which was proclaimed in Spanish, and in Archbishop John Nienstedt’s homily, as he began and ended in song and spoke briefly in Spanish to the Latino community.
While worshippers waited for the Mass to begin, they were treated to glorious musical prayers from the Cathedral Choir and Cathedral Chamber Orchestra, the Basilica Cathedral Choir and the University of St. Thomas Schola Cantorum, totaling some 120 voices.
Wrapped in the resounding strains of the Giovanni Gabrielli fanfare, “Sonata Pian’e forte,” worshippers rose for the opening procession of seminarians, Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights and Dames of Malta and priests of the archdiocese. Then, 2,000 voices joined the cathedral organ for “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” as an estimated 400 men and women processed in ahead of Bishop Lee Piché and Archbishop Nienstedt.
All the pomp and circumstance was a wonderful prelude to the premiere of a new responsorial psalm by Father Jan Michael Joncas. The composition for Psalm 89 was easy to follow, even for this tone-challenged Catholic. And, as Father Joncas told The Catholic Spirit earlier, the response became richer each time it was echoed back to the cantor. I would expect that many liturgists will find a way to incorporate this beautiful responsorial psalm into their parish Masses, where appropriate.
The musical beauty continued during the procession of oils and offerings that were brought to the sanctuary by permanent deacons and various representatives from the community.
As noted in the Chrism Mass booklet: “The sacred chrism is the primary anointing oil. It is fragranced with a sweet perfume called balsam, and it is used at baptism, confirmation and ordination. It is also used to anoint the altar and walls of churches during the rite of dedication.”
The oil of the sick is used to give those who are ill to “receive a remedy for the illness of mind and body, so that they may have the strength to bear suffering and resist evil and obtain the forgiveness of sins.”
The oil of catechumens is used to extend the effect of the baptismal exorcisms: “Through this anointing, the candidates for baptism are strengthened to renounce sin and the devil.”
All of the oils are pure olive oil, but only the chrism oil is scented and must be blessed by the bishop. The oils are distributed for use during the coming year in churches, hospitals and other Catholic institutions across the archdiocese, beginning with the Easter Vigil.
The Chrism Mass is also a time for all the priests of the archdiocese to renew the promises they made when they were ordained: to serve the people of God faithfully; to be men of prayer; and to be faithful to their bishop. The lay faithful are also called to renew their own commitment and prayers for the priests.