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Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski breathed in a vessel containing balsam and olive oil during the consecration process for making sacred chrism during the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski breathed in a vessel containing balsam and olive oil during the consecration process for making sacred chrism during the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Sacred oils, sacred priesthood

Chrism Mass celebrates blessing of holy oils, renewal of priestly promises

Deacons Charlie Durban, left, and Jorge Perez carried the blessed oil of the sick to Boland Hall from the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis to be divided into bottles for priests to use through the next year.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand
At the annual Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning, March 28, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski drew from the first reading from the book of Isaiah: “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners; to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

“Isaiah’s words are those of hope: hope to a people who experience exile, hope to a people impatient for the day of the Lord, hope for a people who yearn for the favor of the Lord in their lives,” Archbishop Rozanski said during his homily. “Do not these words strike our hearts today, as a people who experience much division, bloodshed and violence in our world?”

During the Chrism Mass, Archbishop Rozanski blessed the three holy oils used in parishes around the archdiocese throughout the year: the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens and the sacred chrism.

The oil of the sick and oil of catechumens — used in the anointing of the sick and for those preparing for baptism, respectively — are pure olive oil.

Sacred chrism is made by mixing balsam, an aromatic perfume, with olive oil. The archbishop then breathes into the chrism vessel, which “recalls the Spirit of God ‘moving over the face of the waters’ at creation (Genesis 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 U.S. bishops.

Chrism is used to anoint the faithful in baptism and confirmation and to anoint priests and bishops at ordination, used as a sign of spiritual strengthening, enabling us to live out the call to follow Jesus. Chrism is also used when dedicating a church.

After the oils are blessed and the chrism is consecrated, volunteers divide them into small bottles to distribute to priests for their parishes and other ministries, such as hospitals or nursing homes.

Sacred chrism oil to be distributed to priests in the archdiocese.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
We must remember that the holy oils are meant for each of us, Archbishop Rozanski said. “We have been given the anointing to be those instruments of healing and hope to our families, our communities, our Church and our world.”

The archbishop urged the faithful to pray for their priests, who renewed their priestly promises after the homily. “They are my coworkers in assuring that the call of the Lord Jesus to continue the work of His Kingdom is assured, even to the end of time,” he said. Every baptized person will have the chance to renew their baptismal promises at Easter, the archbishop added, “so that we can present to Christ, when He returns at the end of time, a Church that is ever faithful to Him as He is ever faithful to us.”

On Holy Thursday evening, Catholics remember the institution of the priesthood — and the Eucharist — at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. To mark this special day for priests, several parishioners who attended the Chrism Mass shared times that priests have impacted their lives.

Christian Reller, parishioner at Immaculate Conception Dardenne Prairie

Christian Reller
“Being involved in high school youth ministry, the young associate pastors at my parish really showed me the manhood of Christ in their priesthood, as opposed to just being the guy up on the altar. The humanity of our priests is what I learned in high school that helped me stick to the faith….Father Henry Purcell and Father Ryan Weber were the two that really, I’d say, changed my life for sure.”

Michael and Therese Baer, parishioners at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

Therese, Michael and baby David Baer
Michael’s younger brother is Father Mitchell Baer, a priest of the archdiocese. “It means the sacraments are close, and we get our life from the sacraments. Vacations bring us very close together as a family naturally, and then to have the Mass on command is like the best you can get.” “He’s been a witness to nieces and nephews for a long time, including them and catechizing them as he practices his ministry around the family…He’s very much a father, as much as he is the youngest of us all.”

One of the first times Therese met Father Baer was the funeral of his grandfather. “He’s not just the youngest in (his) family, but the youngest of all the cousins on that side, and yet he was the spiritual father to everyone, those who were grieving and especially those who had left the faith and were looking to him for comfort and direction. That really impressed me, as kind of an outsider looking in, to see his witness of faith and spiritual fatherhood.”

Jenn Pecher, middle school religion teacher at Ascension School and parishioner at Holy Infant in Ballwin

Jenn Pecher
“When I was going through high school, I couldn’t understand why everyone looked so solemn when they were receiving Communion. They looked sad to me. If we believe it’s the presence of Jesus, then to me, it’s joyful,” she said. “And I talked to Father (now Bishop Emeritus) Hermann about it, and he was just so beautiful about explaining it and he actually used it in a homily, to talk about how much grace we’re given and how much beauty there is in Communion and being connected to Christ. I thought that was so beautiful.”

“I also loved getting to know Father (Michael) Grosch toward the beginning of his priesthood,” she added. “He was very youthful and energetic, as you would imagine, and just loved to joke around with the kids. The way he connected with them really created some personal relationships with those (Ascension) eighth graders in particular.”

Alekya and Dileep Mannepalli, parishioners at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

Alekya and Dileep Mannepalli
Alekya moved to St. Louis about eight months ago, and Dileep joined her about six months later. In their home parish in India, their pastor Father Lazar “told us a lot about Jesus and expected a lot of holiness from the people,” Dileep said. “He had a lot of impact in our lives, teaching us about Jesus and mother Mary.”

They’ve enjoyed the opportunity to go to Mass with Archbishop Rozanski at the Cathedral and chat with him afterward. “We got to meet the bishops and archbishop directly here — in India, we don’t have much of an opportunity to meet directly because there’s a lot of jurisdictions,” he said.

Father Anthony Dattilo, pastor of St. Joachim Parish in Old Mines and St. James Parish in Potosi, received holy oils from Kathy Gibler, a parishioner at St. Ann in Normandy, after the Chrism Mass.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

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