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Father Muench Says...

Considering the Chrism Mass

April 6, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to tell you about the Chrism Mass, as I do each year as we come to the end of Lent. All the priests of our Diocese of Ogdensburg gather with Bishop LaValley at St. Mary’s Cathedral for this Chrism Mass. I notice each year at the Chrism Mass that Bishop LaValley uses this opportunity to give a personal message to all of us priests.

This Mass is called the Chrism Mass. It is the Mass once a year when Bishop LaValley blesses and consecrates the sacred oils that will be used in the celebration of the sacraments during the next year. There was a time when the Chrism Mass was celebrated as the morning Mass on Holy Thursday. In recent years, to make it possible for all the priests to gather, the Chrism Mass is celebrated at the cathedral the week before Holy Week.
During the Chrism Mass, Bishop LaValley consecrates the three sacred oils. A portion of these newly blessed oils is sent out to each parish in the diocese to be used in the celebration of the sacraments in that parish during the coming year.

First there is the Oil of the Sick. This oil is used for the anointing of the sick and the anointing of the dying. This anointing is a sign of support and a prayer to the Lord at these crucial times in the life of a person. Most of us priests carry the Oil of the Sick with us constantly, especially when visiting the hospital. This oil is also used to bless and pray for those who are dangerously suffering from addictions as well as those affected with mental problems.

The Oil of the Catechumens. This oil is used during the celebration of baptism, both for infants and adults. When an unbaptized adult seeks entrance into our Catholic Church and to be baptized, they are called catechumens. The Church calls the special program preparing adults for baptism RCIA – the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.

Then, there is the Sacred Chrism. This is the special oil that is used during the celebration of the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of confirmation. In addition, the Oil of Sacred Chrism is used during the ordination of a priest. During that ceremony, the hands of a newly ordained priest are anointed with the Sacred Chrism in a consecration of this new priest whose hands will hold the bread and wine at Eucharist that will be consecrated to the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at each Mass that this new priest will celebrate.

The Chrism Mass also includes the renewal the priestly promises of all the priests. These are the promises that each priest makes at the time of his ordination. I have always considered this renewal a very sacred moment and a special opportunity for me to remember well just whom I am. God called me to be a Catholic priest. This is my vocation, and I confidently renew myself to this dedication.

Our bishop asks several questions of us in this renewal. Let me share one of these question with you: “Are you resolved to be faithful steward of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ, the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?” Each priest responds, “I AM.”

Then the bishop turns to the people of the congregation as I now turn to you: “As for you, dearest sons and daughters, pray for your priests, that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest.”

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