Oils Blessed For Sacraments, Priests Renew Promises
Published: April 12, 2012
ATLANTA—A few days before the Easter Vigil, when over 2,000 new Catholics would enter the Church in North Georgia’s parishes and missions, the sacred oils that would be used in their sacraments of baptism and confirmation were blessed at the annual Chrism Mass.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory conducts a prayer over the Chrism as seminarian Michael Revak holds the book of prayers. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
The Holy Week liturgy is a prelude each year to the renewal coming to the Church at Easter. A huge number of priests of the archdiocese, over 170 this year, attend the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King as part of a day of reflection and fraternity spent together with the archbishop. At the Mass, which falls near the Holy Thursday remembrance of the Last Supper, they renew their promises as priests to be more conformed to Christ over the coming year and to faithfully teach the faith and celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, “moved only by zeal for souls.”
Then two stately silver urns, filled with the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens, and a third urn, where oil will be mixed with balsam into the Oil of Chrism are brought before the altar, where the oils are blessed and the chrism consecrated by the archbishop.
Following the Mass, the contents of the urns, 21 liters in each, are carefully poured into small vessels brought from each parish and mission. Placed in the churches, they will become the oils of the sacraments and dedications celebrated over the next 12 months.
Msgr. Joseph Corbett, vicar general, center, Father Philip Ryan, right, pastor of Christ Our King and Savior Church, Greensboro, and the assembly of priests renew their vocational commitment to the priesthood.
In addition to the 2,000 Easter Catholics, if last year’s statistics hold true, the oils will be used in the baptisms of about 10,000 babies in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the chrism will anoint some 5,000 teenagers who are confirmed. Thousands more will be anointed with the oils for healing when they are sick, hospitalized or frail or for peace and comfort at the time of death. New priests’ hands will be anointed and new churches and altars consecrated with the chrism.
The pouring of the oils into parish vessels is done after Mass by a team of laypeople, led by Christ the King School religion teacher Jackie Marcinko, who has done it for the last 20 years.
“It’s an honor,” she said. “In a little way we are a part of every sacrament celebrated in the diocese.”
The world is dominated by talk of oil, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in his homily at the April 3 Chrism Mass.
“The oil that the world desperately needs, according to most of these reports, is that which is to be found deep within the earth or under the sea or encrusted in rocks,” he said.
“We use another type of oil,” he said. “The energy that comes from the oil that we shall bless this evening originates from and depends upon the very Spirit of God Himself. Each year we gather as clergy and faithful and we ask that the Holy Spirit charge this oil with His grace and power so that when we use it, God Himself is present in our actions and through our prayer.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory adds three liters of balsam to the 18 liters of oil before he mixes the Chrism.
The Oil of the Catechumens strengthens the baptized so they can persevere in “the great and enduring struggle against evil,” Archbishop Gregory said.
The Oil of the Sick “enjoys the strength of the Messiah’s healing power,” he said, and as priests “our ministry to the sick is among the most important services that we can offer to our people because they encounter Jesus through us in those moments of their illness and fragility.”
When he consecrates the chrism, Archbishop Gregory said, “I see the bright faces of our young people who are so precious to the heart of the Church and to the heart of this archbishop.”
“May this oil be electrified with the energy of God’s own Spirit so that our youngsters will be confirmed in hope, joy and courage when they are anointed with this chrism,” he said.
Christ possessed the fullness of the Spirit of God and poured out that Spirit on the Church lavishly, so the source of spiritual life for the sacraments is never in short supply, Archbishop Gregory said.
“You can fill all of the vessels that you have brought to bring them home for use with your people,” he told the priests.
“The One who gained them for us and the Spirit who gives them their transforming power are not limited in their love for us or their authority to make us into those people that God deigns us to become,” he said.
Some 175 priests were on hand for the April 3 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta.
As the Cathedral of Christ the King’s stained glass windows glowed with evening sun, the archbishop also gave a personal message to the priests of the archdiocese gathered before him.
“I thank you for your devotion to this local Church and for being the finest priests in the nation,” he said.
“It is my responsibility to make sure you are the happiest,” he added.