Two acts, one purpose: the Chrism Mass

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

May 30, 2020

 Bishop Michael Olson blesses oils to be used in sacraments throughout the diocese, during the Chrism Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. (NTC/Rodger Mallison) Bishop Michael Olson blesses oils to be used in sacraments throughout the diocese, during the Chrism Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)
Bishop Michael Olson blesses oils to be used in sacraments throughout the diocese, during the Chrism Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. (NTC/Rodger Mallison) See more photos of the beautiful Chrism Mass.


KELLER — Two acts set the Chrism Mass apart from every other Mass celebrated during the liturgical year. First, and the source of the Mass’ name, the bishop blesses the oils to be used in sacraments throughout the diocese in the coming year. Secondly, the priests renew their ordination vows, recommitting themselves to the faithful service of God and His people.

Both acts speak to one truth: the unity of the Catholic Church.

Always rich in symbolism and significance, the Chrism Mass was rescheduled from its typical time and place this year. Usually celebrated during Holy Week, the liturgy was rescheduled to May 28, just a few weeks after the Diocese of Fort Worth returned to a public celebration of Mass.

Careful consideration went into the new date, which allowed for parishes to receive the sacramental oils before bringing new members into the Church on Pentecost and before the priestly ordination of Deacon Pedro Martinez in late June. Bishop Michael Olson also noted that Pentecost is a high solemnity of the Church and is considered the Church’s birthday, further adding to the appropriateness of the date.

The Chrism Mass was relocated with deliberation also, according to Deacon Don Warner, the director of liturgy and worship for the Diocese of Fort Worth. In other years, the Chrism Mass has been celebrated at St. Patrick Cathedral, the seat of the bishop and the mother church of the diocese. But by moving to the large sanctuary at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller, about 75 priests, along with deacons, seminarians, and deacon candidates, could attend while abiding by social distancing recommendations.

Despite the change in time and place, the Chrism Mass remained “awe-inspiring,” according to Terry Timmons of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Abbott. The deacon candidate was most impressed by the blessing of the Holy Oils. “To think that the oils will be used to save a lot of souls and bring people into the Church – it’s a reminder that we are people of faith sealed by these oils.”

Timmons said that watching Bishop Olson ask God to bless the Holy Chrism took on “special meaning, since, God willing, when I am ordained a deacon in August, I will be using the Chrism to baptize.”
 

The three oils

At the Mass, Bishop Olson blessed three oils that will be used in each of the 91 parishes in the diocese in the coming year.

The Oil of Catechumens, given to infants during Baptism and to adults preparing to join the Church, was blessed to give the anointed wisdom and strength to renounce sin.

The Oil of the Sick was blessed to use in the healing sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, to strengthen and console those suffering in mind and body. 

The third oil, Sacred Chrism, includes an aromatic resin – traditionally balsam – and is used to consecrate someone or something to God’s service. The fragrance represents the sweet smell of the Gospel and an inward holiness that rises to heaven. To bless the Chrism, Bishop Olson breathed over the vessel of oil, a gesture symbolizing the life-giving, sanctifying nature of the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate the oil.

Priests are masked and socially distanced as Bishop Michael F. Olson celebrates the Chrism Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, May 28, 2020. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)Priests are masked and socially distanced as Bishop Michael F. Olson celebrates the Chrism Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, May 28, 2020. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)
Priests are masked and socially distanced as Bishop Michael F. Olson celebrates the Chrism Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, May 28, 2020. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

Sacred Chrism anoints adults who are newly baptized, seals the confirmed on their foreheads, and anoints the hands of priests and the heads of bishops at their ordinations. When the bishop dedicates a new church, he pours Sacred Chrism on the altar and makes a cross on each of the walls with the oil.

Miranda Champagne felt “honored, humbled, and in awe” when she and other candidates presented three large vessels to Bishop Olson before the Holy Chrism was blessed. Currently in RCIA, she will enter the Church at St. Michael Parish in Bedford on May 30. “It was a powerful Mass,” she observed. “Seeing all of the priests and the blessing of the oils was pretty awesome. I felt the presence of God everywhere.”
 

Christ in the sacraments

After the Mass, the oils were dispersed among the parishes, so that the bishop has a symbolic presence at every Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick.

Every diocese in the world celebrates the Chrism Mass, which has roots in the many anointings of the Old Testament.

Dcn. Warner said the Mass “helps us to be able to go back to the early days of the Church when the Apostles were primary, and everything flowed from the Apostles as the first bishops. In this way, we gather with our bishop, and those elements for the sacraments are distributed to all of the parishes within his diocese. It shows that connection, that important connection, that we all have with the central head of the diocese, who is the bishop as the representative of the Apostles.”

In his homily, Bishop Olson pointed out that touch was a primary component of Jesus’ ministry, as we see in His healing lepers, giving sight to the blind man, and washing the feet of his Apostles.

The prelate said, “Sacraments are the sacrificial means by which Christ lovingly touches us and transforms us. In this time of fear and illness, a time of masks and gloves and distances and other shields, it is right for us to marvel at this Chrism Mass that God calls us to bless oil. The sacred oil blessed at this Mass is a reminder that God our Lord, the Word-made-Flesh, loves us so much that He wishes to touch us when we are most vulnerable and most generous.

“The sacramental symbols taken up in sacramental action announce that Christ is not only with us, He is with us effectively. The sacraments announce that Christ is not only present to us, but that He is also present for us; they invite us to come to Him and enable us to not only be present to Him but to be present with and in Him,” he continued.

A mere 48 hours later, scores of men, women, and children in parishes around the diocese will answer the invitation of Christ. They will be anointed with Holy Chrism, receive the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation, and enter the Church where He is present.

KELLER — Two acts set the Chrism Mass apart from every other Mass celebrated during the liturgical year. First, and the source of the Mass’ name, the bishop blesses the oils to be used in sacraments throughout the diocese in the coming year. 

Published (until 12/5/2041)
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