Yesterday, Bishop Joe Vásquez lead the Diocese of Austin in this year’s Chrism Mass at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock. The church was filled to its 1,700 person capacity for this once-a-year liturgy, including approximately 500 catholic school students.
For the past few weeks I’ve been surprised by how many practicing Catholics are unaware of this jewel of a liturgy. The Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Tuesday during Holy Week in this diocese, and its significance is twofold:
- It is the mass in which the Bishop blesses the holy oils to be be used by the whole diocese for the year, and
- it is the mass in which all the priests of the diocese gather and renew their vows.
The Oil of the Sick is used by the priest during the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to bring comfort and at times physical healing to those in need.The Oil of the Catechumens is used during the Rite of Infant Baptism and to bless adult catechumens during the time of study and preparation for Baptism at the Easter Vigil.The Sacred Chrism is used to anoint the newly baptized, to seal the candidates for Confirmation, to anoint the hands of priests at their ordination and to consecrate an altar or a new church.The Perfumed Balsam is mixed with the selected oil to make the Sacred Chrism.-Rite of Blessing, Chrism Mass Worship Aid
With the large diocesan-wide audience, Bishop Joe Vasquez didn’t shy away from the big topics the church is facing as it enters into the Easter season. In his homily he emphasized the significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and also again voiced the need for all Catholics to stand up against the HHS mandate that encroaches on our First Amendment rights.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist was immense, as every priest in attendance processed up and stood behind the altar, and prayed and sang in unison with Bishop Joe. This is the first Chrism Mass since the new translation, so hearing the new words for the first time in this grand context was a holy sight.
And before the final blessing, each of the Deans were called up to the altar to collect the oils to be distributed to their deaneries. After mass was a reception hosted by the Saint William staff, and each individual priest or representative was invited to collect the oils for their parishes.
This one mass, once a year, reaches out to so many across our diocese. It truly is a remarkable experience. Should you have the opportunity next year, keep an eye out for it.