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Annual Chrism Mass to manifest universality of the Church, unity of priests with bishop

By Sooner Catholic Staff


As Holy Week approaches, many Catholics prepare to attend the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and either the Easter Vigil or Easter Mass. They look forward to these liturgies with mingled nostalgia and anticipation, ready to observe the washing of the feet, to kiss a crucifix, to stand in awe around a fire.

Fewer, perhaps, plan to attend the annual archdiocesan-wide Chrism Mass, which also occurs on Holy Thursday, but, like the other liturgies of Holy Week, the Chrism Mass engages the whole person – imagination and senses – in worship.

At this Mass, slated this year for 6 p.m. April 15 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City, Archbishop Paul Coakley will bless all the Holy Oils to be used throughout the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in the coming year.

Those Holy Oils include three distinct oils, used for three distinct purposes: the Oil of the Sick, used for the Anointing of the Sick; the Oil of the Catechumens, used in connection with the sacrament of Baptism; and Holy Chrism, used for Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.


The archdiocesan Office of Worship and Spiritual Life specially selects representatives from around the archdiocese to present each oil to the archbishop. Often, a nurse, doctor or retired person presents the Oil of the Sick; a soon-to-be-baptized Catholic and his or her sponsor typically present the Oil of the Catechumens; and a transitional deacon who will be soon be ordained to the priesthood commonly presents the Holy Chrism.

The archbishop receives the oils, prays over them and blesses them. All over the world, at every hour for 24 hours, bishops in other dioceses are doing the same. Subsequently, the various parishes around the world will receive these oils. For the next 365 days, bishops, priests and deacons will use these oils as they administer the sacraments to the faithful throughout the universal church.

Why oil? According to a 2003 column from Father William Saunders, then dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, various references throughout the Bible indicate the importance of olive oil in daily life – and Sacred Scripture also attests to the spiritual symbolism of oil.

 “To be ‘the anointed’ of the Lord indicate(s) receiving a special vocation from the Lord and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to fulfill that vocation,” Father Saunders wrote.

As Saint Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:21, “God is the one who firmly establishes us along with you in Christ; it is He who anointed us and has sealed us, thereby depositing the first payment, the Spirit, in our hearts.”

“Therefore, the symbolism of oil is rich – sanctification, healing, strengthening, beautification, dedication, consecration and sacrifice,” according to Father Saunders.

Also at the Chrism Mass, the priests of the archdiocese gather to renew their commitment to priestly service; the Cathedral altar is surrounded by priests concelebrating the Mass with the archbishop.

During his homily, the archbishop often preaches to the theme of “priestly anointing, urging the priests to be faithful in fulfilling their office and inviting them to renew publicly their priestly promises,” according to the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Chrism Mass is truly a moving and powerful Mass that every Catholic should experience at least once in his or her lifetime, past attendees have said.


Chrism Mass

When: 6 p.m. April 15

Where: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City

Why: To observe a longstanding Catholic tradition and to give gratitude to our gracious Lord for our own baptism, at which time we were anointed with Holy Chrism and commissioned to be a disciple of Jesus Christ

To secure a space: The Mass is free and open to the public.