Chrism Mass — ‘The gift of the diocesan church’
by Becky Berreth
“The church is at its most complete when it gathers with the bishop, priests, deacons, and the faithful. When everybody joins together this is who we are,” explained Father Michel Mulloy, Vicar General for the diocese. “It is very rare for the church to come together for a full celebration. The Chrism Mass is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the gift of the diocesan church.”
On March 19, at 7.p.m., Bishop Robert Gruss, joined by the priests of the diocese, will celebrate the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help — a celebration that includes the blessing of oils and the renewing of priestly promises. Everyone in the diocese is invited to attend.
Following the homily, Bishop Gruss will bless the three oils that will be used in sacraments in the diocese during the coming year. According to Fr. Mulloy, the first two oils — the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumen — consist of olive oil and are blessed in the same way holy water is blessed. The Oil of the Sick is used in anointing the head and hands of those who are seriously and chronically ill to give them spiritual strength to fight in their weakened condition. The Oil of the Catechumens is used in the sacrament of baptism, meant to provide strength for discipleship.
The third oil — the Sacred Chrism — is olive oil mixed with balsam and is consecrated by the bishop during this liturgy. The bishop also breathes on the oil, which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
“When someone is anointed with the Sacred Chrism they become one with Christ,” explained Fr. Mulloy. It is used in baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and the dedication and blessing of churches and altars.
The Chrism Mass is also a time for the priests, in the presence of the bishop and the faithful, to renew their commitment to the ministry to which they were ordained. Similar to the renewal of wedding vows in front of family members, the priests are asked to repeat the promises taken at their ordination in the presence of the Catholic faithful.
“Our vocation is a marriage to Christ and to the church. It is important to any priest to have the faithful there to bear witness, to have the people’s support and encouragement in our ministry,” explained Fr. Mulloy. “The bishop at one point says ‘as for you dear sons and daughters pray for your priests.’ It is important for the priests there to know they have those prayers.”
The Chrism Mass is often celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, but because of the size of the diocese and the distances priests need to travel to be in attendance, it is celebrated in conjunction with Pastoral Ministry Days, March 18-20. “Holy Week is a summation of who we are and what we are about,” Fr. Mulloy added. “The Chrism Mass is tied to the Easter triduum not only because the oils are used in the sacraments, but it’s also the gathering of the church as a whole community. It is the church at its finest.”