Blessing of the oils: St. Mary's hosts diocese Chrism Mass
WORTHINGTON -- Holy Week -- the days leading up to Easter -- is generally a busy time at any church, with extra services and preparations for the triumphant celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The staff and membership of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington have an additional Holy Week responsibility this year, as the parish will host the Diocese of Winona Chrism Mass on Monday evening.
"In our diocese, it's always on the Monday before Easter," explained the Rev. Larry Brixius, current priest of St. Mary's. "Traditionally, It's supposed to be on Holy Thursday, in the morning, but to facilitate priests being able to get there and get back to do services at their own parishes, it became the practice to have it on Monday of Holy Week."
The Chrism Mass rotates between the five deaneries of the diocese. The last time it was at the Worthington parish was more than 10 years ago, Brixius estimated, just prior to his appointment to the Worthington church. The Worthington Deanery encompasses the six counties of southwest Minnesota: Jackson, Nobles, Rock, Cottonwood, Murray, Pipestone.
The purpose of a Chrism Mass is to bless the oils that are used for the sacraments in each parish throughout the coming year. The blessing is done by the diocese's bishop, and Bishop John Quinn will make the trip from Winona along with the diocesan staff and priests and deacons from throughout the diocese. About 125 special guests, as well as 35 to 40 members of a diocesan choir, are expected to attend.
"People will be coming from all over the diocese, as well," noted Brixius, "so we're expecting to get a pretty full church."
Three types of oil will be blessed during the Mass:
Oil of Catechumens: Used to anoint people who are being baptized, infants and adults, or joining the church.
Oil of the Sick: Used to anoint people who are seriously sick, to pray for healing.
Oil of Chrism: Used for baptism, confirmation, ordination or priests and consecration of altars.
All three oils are basically olive oil; the chrism oil has perfume -- usually balsam -- added. The oil will be brought to St. Mary's in three larger vats. After the oil is blessed, while the Mass continues and Bishop Quinn delivers the homily, it will be transported over to the adjacent school, where volunteers will transfer it into smaller containers, marked for each parish in the diocese. Parishes get varying amounts of the oils, depending on size and needs.
"Since the bishop is the only minister in the dioceses who may consecrate chrism, this Mass highlights his ministry and our union with him," details an online explanation about the Mass of Chrism. "He will not baptize and confirm everyone in the parishes of the diocese, but he will be symbolically present in the chrism which the priest and deacons will use."
The Mass also acknowledges the ministry of priests, which is especially appropriate on Holy Thursday.
"Another aspect of this celebration is that Holy Thursday is a celebration of the Last Supper, which we acknowledge as the ordination of the apostles," Brixius explained. "Jesus gave them the bread and the wine and said, 'Do this in remembrance of me,' commissioning them to go out and share his body and blood with others. So all the priests of the diocese will renew their vows, their commitment to the priesthood. Even though we were all ordained at different times of the year ... we renew our vows at this celebration of the Chrism Mass.
"It's not inappropriate for Christians to renew their baptismal vows at this time, too," added Brixius, "since the oils are used for baptism, so it's not a bad idea to think about that, too."
Preparation for the Chrism Mass and the bishop's visit began a couple months ago. A supper will be served to the honored guests prior to the Mass, which begins at 7 p.m. A public reception will follow.
Brixius recently learned that he will receive a new assignment soon and will likely depart St. Mary's in July, so he anticipates that the Chrism Mass will be a bittersweet event as he anticipates moving on from the parish where he has served for more than 10 years.
"This whole Holy Week will be my last one here," he said, "so I guess this will be sort of a last hurrah."