The sacred Chrism, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Oil of the Sick.
In one Mass, known as the Chrism Mass, regular virgin olive oil will become these holy oils that will be used for the celebration of sacraments, dedications and blessings at every church throughout the Diocese of Nashville for the next year.
“The Chrism Mass, which [the bishop] concelebrates with priests from various regions of the diocese and during which he consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the other oils, is among the principal manifestations of the fullness of the bishop’s priesthood and is considered to be a sign of the close bond of the priests with him,” according to The Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism (OBO), No. 1, available on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website. “For it is with the sacred Chrism consecrated by the bishop that the newly baptized are anointed and those to be confirmed are signed. It is with the Oil of Catechumens that catechumens are prepared and disposed for Baptism. Finally, it is with the Oil of the Sick that those who are ill are comforted in their infirmity.”
Bishop J. Mark Spalding, along with the priests of the diocese, will celebrate this special Mass at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, at the Catholic Pastoral Center’s Sagrado Corazon, and he invites all to attend this special celebration for the diocese.
“We hope to fill this wonderful space with our folks from every corner in our diocese,” said Bishop Spalding in the promotional video for the Chrism Mass. “Please join us.”
Free ticket reservations for the Chrism Mass are now available. A total of 2,000 tickets have been allocated for the public, and a majority have already been reserved, so reserve tickets soon.
“What the Mass itself does, it opens our eyes, our minds and our hearts to how diverse a Church we are,” Bishop Spalding said. “Holy Week is so full of mysteries and rituals of our Church. To start the week off with an emphasis on the ministry and, in particular, those who lead in that ministry, our priests, is significant for the Church.”
The Chrism Mass “is a great gathering of the priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and laity of the whole diocese,” said Bishop Spalding. “We gather to, above all, bless the oils which will be used in the wonderful ministry of our parishes.”
First, the celebrating bishop blesses the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumens.
The Oil of the Sick is used during the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick.
“St. James bears witness to the use of the Oil of the Sick,” according to OBO, no. 2. “It offers the sick a remedy for infirmity of body and soul, so that they can bravely endure and fight against evils and obtain pardon for sins.”
The Oil of Catechumens is used in the Baptism of catechumens being initiated into the Church at the Easter Vigil.
“The Oil of Catechumens extends the effect of the baptismal exorcisms: it strengthens the candidate with the power to renounce the devil and sin before they go to the font of life for rebirth,” according to OBO, no. 2.
Following the blessing of the first two oils, “the high point of the ritual” comes with the consecration of the sacred Chrism, which is used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, as well as for the consecration of altars and the dedication of churches. It comes from a mixture of olive oil and balsam to add fragrance.
“Sacred Chrism shows that through Baptism, Christians have been incorporated into the Pascal Mystery of Christ,” according to OBO, no. 2. “Having died, been buried and risen with him, they are sharers in his kingly and prophetic Priesthood. Through Confirmation, they are given the spiritual anointing of the Holy Spirit.”
Before the celebrating bishop says the Prayer of Consecration over the oil, he will breathe over the opening of the vessel holding the Chrism, recalling “the spirit of God ‘moving over the face of the waters’ at creation (Gen. 1:12) and Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples in which ‘he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’’ (John 20:22),” according to the USCCB.
Following the Chrism Mass, the bottled oils are distributed to each priest for their parishes.
Bottling the oils
Before the celebration of this year’s Chrism Mass, each of the oils will be bottled into 4 oz. or 16 oz. containers, depending on the preference of each parish, and they will be brought up to the altar in containers to be blessed by Bishop Spalding.
For more than 30 years, the bottling of the oils has been led by Greta Menke and MaryMac Boyd, parishioners of the Cathedral of the Incarnation. Although it is only one of many things the long-time friends have done together over the years, they consider it one of the highlights of their year, Menke said.
“The Chrism Mass is my favorite time of the year,” Menke said. “I love the physical work of it, and it’s a neat feeling to know that we have had a part in the celebration of all the sacraments in every church in the diocese for the next year.
“I’m older now and getting away from doing a lot of things, but this will be the last thing that I will be able to give up because I love it so much,” she added.
Renewal of promises
Along with the ritual of blessing and consecrating the holy oils, the Chrism Mass is also when all the priests of the diocese “will stand before us and affirm their priestly promises before the bishop and the laity, which is a touching moment for me, especially because the last of the promises is that I renew my own dedication to the Diocese of Nashville,” Bishop Spalding said. “And I ask God’s help in being the shepherd here in Middle Tennessee.”
During the renewal, the bishop asks each of the priests three questions as they renew their priestly promise with the words, “I am.”
“Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?
“Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?
“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 gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?”
Then, making the final connection from bishop to priests to the people, the bishop turns to the congregation with two requests to which they respond, “Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.”
“As for you, dearest sons and daughters, pray for your priests, that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest, so that they may lead you to him, who is the source of salvation,” the bishop recites. “And pray also for me, that I may be faithful to the apostolic office entrusted to me in my lowliness and that in your midst I may be made day by day a living and more perfect image of Christ, the priest, the good shepherd, the teacher and the servant of all.”
Father Gervan Menezes, master of ceremonies for the bishop and chaplain of University Catholic, said the renewal of the priestly promises each year in unison with the priests of the entire diocese is “really impactful for me.”
“As the priests of the diocese together with Bishop Spalding renew our ordination promises, it’s powerful because it reminds me that I’m here, not because of myself, but I’m here to serve others,” Father Menezes said. “That’s why we are here, to serve the community, to serve the people of God.
“And that’s a witness to the people of the parishes who attend, and those who came can say, ‘I saw this happen. This is why my priest is here, to serve me and to proclaim the Good News,’” he said. “That’s the beauty is to know that we are here to serve God and to better serve the people of God.”