Chrism Mass is bridge to Holy Thursday, celebrates priesthood, distributes holy oils

Priests and parishioners from across the archdiocese gathered with Archbishop George J. Lucas at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha April 10 for the annual chrism Mass, reaffirming priestly commitments and accepting holy oils for sacraments in the coming year.

Archbishop Lucas blessed the oils at the 11 a.m. Mass, and they were distributed to parish representatives after the liturgy – and in many cases, they will be solemnly presented in parishes during the Holy Thursday Mass.

Priests concelebrate the Mass with the archbishop as witnesses and cooperators in consecration of the chrism and building up, sanctifying and leading the people of God, said Brother William Woeger, director of the Office of Divine Worship.

"This Mass is, therefore, a clear expression of the unity of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, which continues to be present in the church," he said.

Some schools and parishes bring confirmation classes to the chrism Mass, so students can better understand the oil that will be used at their confirmation, Brother Woeger said.

The annual Holy Week celebration has a traditional connection to Holy Thursday because both celebrate the priesthood and Jesus’ ministry, as expressed in the blessing and presentation of the holy oils, Brother Woeger said.

"The oils are the archbishop’s Easter gift to the local faith communities," he said. They include the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens and the oil of chrism.

The oil of the sick and the oil of catechumens for baptism consist of olive oil, while the oil of chrism is olive oil combined with a precious fragrance for baptism, confirmation, ordination of priests and bishops and anointing altars and churches.

"The whole idea is that it’s extravagant, like God’s outpouring of love for his people," Brother Woeger said.

During Mass, deacons will carry three large, gold urns of the oils forward, accompanied by lay people, and present them to the archbishop with a request they be consecrated and blessed.

"The chrism Mass is a celebration of that ministry that has as its source the mission of Jesus Christ all the way to those who work in parishes in various forms of service," Brother Woeger said.

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