Well, oil be! Holy oils blessed, distributed for parishes

Deacons process with an urn of olive oil to be blessed at the April 11 Chrism Mass. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

Megan Marley

Oils are used in four of the Church’s seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick. The scriptural symbolism of oil found in the Psalms, Isaiah, the Gospels, Paul’s writings and other books of the Bible describe its purposes in sanctification, strengthening, healing, consecration and sacrifice—and records from the early Church’s use of holy oil show similar understanding of its use in the Sacraments as an outward sign of these internal workings on the soul.

The three holy oils used in the sacraments are the Oil of Catechumens, used in adult Baptisms; the Oil of the Sick, used for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick; and Oil of Chrism, used in the sacraments of Confirmation, Holy Orders and infant Baptism.

These oils are blessed by the bishop of a diocese at a special Chrism Mass, ordinarily celebrated the morning of Holy Thursday during Holy Week. But for practical reasons in this diocese, the Mass is usually celebrated a week earlier, on the Thursday before Palm Sunday.

On April 11, the priests in the diocese gathered for an entire day of reflection, prayer and retreat before the Chrism Mass, where in addition to the bishop’s consecration of oils, they renew their commitment to priestly service. Some religious order priests and Abbot Benedict Neenan of Conception Abbey were also present for the Chrism Mass, held that night at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City.

In his homily, Bishop Johnston welcomed all who came for the Mass, particularly the catechumens and candidates who would be entering the Church at Easter.

“These new oils that we will bless tonight will be used in the Easter sacraments and throughout the coming year in the sacramental life of the Church of our diocese,” he said. “I am also grateful this evening to celebrate this Mass with our priests, for whom we’re so grateful to God for, and who tonight will renew their promises to serve you, God’s family, and help you get to Heaven.”

“Tonight serves as a reminder of that solemn promise, and marks a renewal of that promise. This moment, right after the homily, gives each priest an opportunity to say ‘I am indeed a man of my word, a man who keeps his promise no matter what. A man whose life is not his own, but a man who moved by love entrusts his life to Jesus Christ without condition or reservation.’ So, this is always a powerful moment in this liturgy.”

“When each priest made his promises on his day of ordination, he did not know where Jesus would lead him. He did not know what storms he might face in his life, nor what storms the Church would face either. He made his promise knowing that in all likelihood, his promise would bring him both joys but also sufferings. When each priest renews his word, he looks back on where he’s come from, and he looks forward to the future. But he looks forward always with hope in the Lord Jesus.”

“The other unusual feature of this Chrism Mass is the blessing of oils for the celebration of sacraments,” the bishop continued. “God made each of us so that He could bless us. God made us so that He has someone to bestow His goodness and blessing upon. This Chrism Mass highlights this both in the liturgy itself, and in the readings that go with it. The first reading from Isaiah speaks of the anointed of the Lord and ends with these words: ‘All who see him shall acknowledge him as the race the Lord has blessed’. Oil in the Bible is a sign of blessing—to be anointed in the Bible is a sign of receiving the Lord’s blessing, this is carried over into the sacraments in which we are anointed with oil. These anointings at different times in our lives carry special blessings from God, which makes us part of the ‘race the Lord has blessed’.”

Following the homily, the priests of the diocese stood to renew their commitment to priestly service.

“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?” Bishop Johnston asked as part of the lengthy renewal.

“I am,” the priests responded in unison.

After the renewal, three young adults from St. Joseph, Mo. presented the gifts for the offertory, and deacons processed in two by two with the balsam and three large silver urns full of olive oil to be blessed and consecrated. Bishop Johnston blessed each of the three oils in turn, lastly stirring of balsam into the Oil of Chrism and breathing upon it as Jesus breathed upon the apostles, infusing them with the Holy Spirit.

The consecrated oils were then removed to another location to be later dispersed among the parishes as the Mass continued, with all the priests concelebrating with the Bishop.


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December 02, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph