Rich liturgy planned for annual chrism Mass

Categories: Around the Diocese

Bishop Donald Kettler breathes over chrism oil, a gesture symbolizing the infusion of the Holy Spirit, during last year’s chrism Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Then-Deacon Gabriel Walz, who was ordained to the priesthood last June, and Autumn Zupko, a confirmation candidate from Sacred Heart Parish in Flensburg, hold the vessel of oil. Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

Bishop Donald Kettler breathes over chrism oil, a gesture symbolizing the infusion of the Holy Spirit, during last year’s chrism Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Then-Deacon Gabriel Walz, who was ordained to the priesthood last June, and Autumn Zupko, a confirmation candidate from Sacred Heart Parish in Flensburg, hold the vessel of oil. Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Each year, just before Easter, the bishop of the diocese blesses the oil that will be used in parishes for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, initiation, holy orders and the anointing of the sick at a special Mass called the chrism Mass.

This year, Bishop Donald Kettler will celebrate the chrism Mass at 7 p.m. March 17 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. Deacon Doug Liebsch, a seminarian from St. Mary of Mount Carmel in Long Prairie, will serve as the deacon of the Mass. He is set to be ordained to the priesthood in June.

New this year

Diocesan director of worship Timothy Johnston said the Mass — which takes its name from one of the holy oils that is blessed — is very important in the life of the church.

“What is really special about this Mass is that it shows the life, health and vibrancy of the church as we gather in prayer and song to pray for all those who will be anointed with the oils in the coming year,” he said. “We keep those in mind who are sick, parents who are preparing for the baptism of their new child, the confirmandi and all those receiving sacraments this year.”

Johnston has incorporated some unique elements into the already rich liturgical celebration. While the whole Mass will be interpreted in American Sign Language, special attention will be given to those who are deaf or hard of hearing during the first Scripture reading, when the interpreter will sign the reading from the ambo, along with the spoken word.

Parts of the Mass, including the second reading, will be spoken in Spanish; the Catholic Filipino community will assist in the presentation of the gifts, using movement and traditional symbols of fruit and flowers.

“It is important that we begin to include these cultural elements in our diocesan liturgies because it shows the changing face of our diocese,” Johnston said. “It draws in the whole church and gives everyone an opportunity to pray as fully as they are able.”

Johnston said the chrism Mass is also a time for all the priests of the diocese to come together to renew their priestly vows.

“This signifies that they have been commissioned by the community and the bishop to celebrate the sacraments, to enliven the liturgy of the church,” he said.

Deepening understanding

Also new this year is that the Elect — those who are preparing for full initiation into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil — will be dismissed after the homily as part of the ritual, just as they have been dismissed at their home parishes throughout their preparations.

This dismissal is an important step in deepening the understanding of the Scriptures read at the liturgy. This year, Jakob Rinderknecht, instructor at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, will lead the dismissal of the Elect.

“Historically, there are three things that Christians are called to do together — profess the creed, pray for the world and celebrate the Eucharist,” Rinderknecht said. “During Mass, those three things are done after the homily. Therefore that is why those who have not yet been fully initiated into the Catholic Church are dismissed after the homily.”

At the chrism Mass, the Elect will be invited to come forward after the oils have been blessed, which will take place after the homily. The bishop will give them a blessing and invite the whole assembly to pray for them through song as they are dismissed.

“My hope is that it will be a time of conversation and reflection with elements of prayer about what this day means in the life of the church,” Rinderknecht said. “We will look at how the readings fit together with the actions and how it all relates to Holy Week, which we will all be celebrating together and when many of these folks will be baptized or confirmed at the Easter Vigil. This chrism oil that is being blessed has particular significance to them as it will be used in their initiation at the Easter Vigil.”

Rebecca Ott, who is preparing for full initiation into the Catholic Church at Mary of the Visitation Parish in Becker-Big Lake, said that being dismissed each week helps her to reflect more deeply on the readings. But equally important, she said, are the relationships she has formed.

“It has probably helped me to actually sit and reflect instead of just carrying on with my day,” she said.

“In my [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] class, we have a lot of discussions. We share things — beliefs, feelings, experiences. You get to really know the [others in the class] and their sponsors, too. I’m sharing this excitement with them, the excitement of being in full communion with the Catholic Church. It’s a journey and you bond with the others that are walking this path with you.”
Ott will be one of the oil bearers for the sacred chrism — a person who holds the oil as it is being consecrated by the bishop — at this year’s chrism Mass.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this Mass,” she said, “especially with the knowledge that the oil will then be used for my baptism. I believe that it will make the baptism even more spiritually amazing.”

About the oils

At the chrism Mass, Bishop Donald Kettler will bless the oil that will be used for the sacraments in parishes throughout the year. There are three different oils, all olive-based:

  • Oil of the sick
    This oil is used to strengthen those who are ill and free them from pain. It is used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.When the oil is blessed, the community prays that those anointed with this oil may have the strength to bear suffering and be touched by the healing power of Christ.
  • Oil of catechumens
    Catechumens are those who are preparing for baptism, usually as an adult through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. This oil is used to strengthen the catechumen against evil.During the prayer for this anointing, the assembly prays that the catechumens will have strength and wisdom to understand the Gospel and to accept the challenge of Christian living.
  • Holy chrism
    Holy chrism is the chief anointing oil, fragranced with a secret blend of aromatic oils, and can only be consecrated by a bishop.It is used at the baptism of infants, in confirmation, to anoint the hands of the priest at his ordination and to anoint a bishop-elect. It is also used to bless church buildings.Once the oils have been blessed at the chrism Mass, they are dispensed into containers and brought back to each parish and are usually kept in an ambry, or a dedicated place, until their next use.