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Father Muench Says...

Considering the Chrism Mass


March 29, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I am certain that my involvement in the various Masses and services of Holy Week when I was in high school had a profound influence on my decision to become a priest of the Catholic Church. This year, it will soon be time for the Chrism Mass, as we begin the Holy Week liturgy. The Chrism Mass is a very special time for me. As you remember, during the Chrism Mass, Bishop LaValley consecrates the holy oils that will be used in the celebration of the Church’s sacraments in the parishes of our diocese. All the priests of the diocese gather with Bishop LaValley at St. Mary’s Cathedral, for the Chrism Mass.

Here in our diocese, the Chrism Mass is celebrated the week before Holy Week. The Chrism Mass is meant to be celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday. A few years ago, it was decided to schedule the Chrism Mass the week before Holy Week to make it more convenient for our priests and deacons to come to the Cathedral.

So, during the Chrism Mass, Bishop LaValley consecrates three sacred oils. First, there is the Oil of Chrism which is used in the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In addition, the Oil of Chrism is used in the ordination of a priest. At a very powerful moment in the ordination of a priest, the bishop consecrates the hands of the new priest with this Chrism. The bishop covers the new priest’s hands with the oil, for this priest’s hands will hold the Eucharistic bread and the chalice of wine as they are consecrated to the Body and Blood of Jesus. Each year, I remember the peace I experienced when my hands were covered with the Chrism at my ordination.

Then the Oil of the Sick is consecrated. This is the oil that is used by each priest in his own parish when they celebrate the sacrament of the anointing of the sick with those who are close to death. In addition, this oil is also used to bless and anoint those suffering from any illness, facing surgery, suffering addictions, challenged by advanced age or suffering with mental difficulties.

And then the Oil of Catechumens is consecrated. This oil is used in the celebration of the sacrament of baptism.

For all of us, Catholics, baptism is the most important sacrament we will ever receive. In baptism, those baptized as infants are welcomed into the family of our Catholic Church and called to live in the Holy Spirit as disciples of Our Lord Jesus. For those who receive baptism as adults, they will celebrate the making of a powerful decision to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They are called to make the Lord a part of everything they will ever do.

They will live each day as disciples of Jesus.

I want to call to your attention another purpose of the Chrism Mass. Each priest will take some of these oils, blessed and consecrated by our bishop from the Cathedral Church, back to their parish to be used for the celebration of the sacraments in their parish during the coming year. The symbol is the unity of the parish with the bishop of the diocese; each pastor acts in the spirit of the bishop.

At the Chrism Mass each year, all the priests of the diocese, gathered together, use this opportunity to make a public pledge of their resolve to be united in spirit with their bishop. They promise their obedience to their bishop. It is truly a sacred moment for us, priests. It’s an opportunity to renew our resolve to be faithful as priests of the Catholic Church and faithful to our bishop.

“Are you, resolved to be faithful stewards 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 personal gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?”

I Am.

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