Chrism Mass serves as unifying event for Rochester Diocese - Catholic Courier
Vessels of oil are seen on a table. Oils await blessing and consecration during the Solemn Mass of Chrism April 12, 2022, at Sacred Heart Cathedral. (Courier file photo)

Chrism Mass serves as unifying event for Rochester Diocese

Each year during Holy Week, a special liturgy unites the entire Diocese of Rochester.

Clergy and laity from all of the diocese’s 12 counties will gather April 4 for the Solemn Mass of Chrism. The liturgy, to be celebrated by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, will begin at 6 p.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Midway through the Mass, the many priests expected to attend will renew the promises they made at their ordinations. Then Bishop Matano will bless and consecrate the sacramental oils that will be used at diocesan parishes in the coming year.

The Chrism Mass is the only annual liturgy that expressly embraces all parts of the diocese, noted Donald Smith, diocesan coordinator of sacramental catechesis and family life.

“The idea of having a Chrism Mass that the bishop presides at gives you a link to the larger church,” he said. “There are those connections to the diocesan church and, in turn, to the universal church.”

Rochester’s diocesan priests renew their priestly promises

Immediately after giving his homily at the Chrism Mass, Bishop Matano will lead the assembled priests in their renewal of promises.

The congregation looks on as the bishop asks the priests to affirm the vows they made at ordination; strive to grow in union with Jesus while carrying out their priesthood; and fulfill their priestly commitments through the liturgy, teaching and self-sacrifice. After the priests assembled in the sanctuary respond in the affirmative, the bishop asks the congregation to pray for them and for him.

Smith said that coming together for the renewal of promises is a high priority for diocesan priests, regardless of how far they must travel to attend the Chrism Mass.

“For a 12-county diocese, to see priests make up to a three-hour drive to celebrate with their bishop and brother priests, that really is a witness to the brotherhood of the priesthood,” he said.

Oils will be used in Rochester diocesan parishes throughout the year

Right after the renewal of priestly promises, the sacred oils are brought forth to the bishop. He blesses the Oil of the Sick, designated for the anointing of the sick; and the Oil of the Catechumens, for anointing the unbaptized upon their initiation into the Catholic Church.

Finally, the bishop consecrates the Sacred Chrism, which is used for baptisms, confirmations, the ordination of priests and bishops, and to anoint altars and churches being dedicated. The chrism is scented with fragrant perfume, usually balsam.

All of the sacramental oils are pure olive oil with no preservatives. After Mass, parish representatives from throughout the diocese take the oils back to their respective faith communities for use throughout the year.

Smith noted that some of the new oils are put to use almost immediately. Just four days later, the Oil of the Catechumens and Sacred Chrism are used during the Easter Vigil Mass for initiation into the church. Smith added that any leftover oils that were blessed or consecrated the previous year should no longer be used and are to be disposed of properly.

Chrism Mass is ‘unifying in so many different ways’

The Chrism Mass is an ancient Catholic event, having traditionally taken place on Holy Thursday mornings. Yet — citing current rubrics of the Roman Missal —the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that the liturgy may be celebrated on another appropriate day during Holy Week.

In Rochester, Smith said, the Chrism Mass has taken place for decades on the Tuesday of Holy Week to avoid conflicts with Holy Thursday evening services for participants from parishes distant from the cathedral.

Smith said that Chrism liturgies are open to all, noting that participants include lay and ordained religious groups and individuals; parishioners designated to transport the holy oils to parishes; and people preparing for sacraments who wish to witness the blessing and consecration of the actual oils they will receive.

“The Chrism Mass is unifying in so many different ways,” he said. “It brings us all together to celebrate at one point, so that our celebrations the rest of the year can also feel like we’re united even when we’re dispersed.”

Tags: Holy Week
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