By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz gave thanks during the Chrism Mass — celebrated April 3 at the Cathedral of the Assumption — for the service of the church’s priests, religious, deacons, seminarians and laity.
And he reminded them all during his homily of their baptismal call to “renew the face of the earth.”
The Chrism Mass is celebrated annually and centers on a special ceremony in which the archbishop blesses and consecrates three large containers of olive oil. The oil will be divided and distributed to parishes around the archdiocese for use throughout the year. It will be used in baptisms and confirmations, to anoint someone who is sick and to consecrate new altars, among other things.
The archbishop used his homily as an opportunity to teach the faithful about these oils which he consecrated or blessed after the homily.
“The word chrism and the word Christ are almost identical, aren’t they?” he asked. “And there’s a reason for that. Because Christ, the annointed one, and chrism, the oil of anointing, are joined together as one as the gift of God’s presence in your life and mine.
Quoting the Holy Father, who last Easter identified two “eloquent” signs of Easter — fire and spring water — the archbishop said the Chrism Mass also holds two eloquent signs.
“One is ‘oil blessed’ and the other, ‘promises renewed.’ And both of these are gifts for Christ and for you,” he said. “The oil is blessed for a fallen and redeemed world.”
The first oil to be blessed was the oil of the sick, which was brought to a table positioned to the right of the cathedral’s main altar.
The archbishop pointed out before the ritual, “You will witness the oil of the sick brought up in procession. It is oil that will touch the senses of people in the coming year who have suffered greatly — perhaps your own family members or loved ones. Christ through the church touches their suffering, joins their suffering to his, redeems it.”
The next oil to be blessed was the oil of catechumens, which is used to anoint those preparing for baptism.
“We rarely talk about it,” the archbishop said during his homily. “It’s the oil given to the church for the person before that person is baptized. It’s that oil given to the catechumen to banish from his or her life, the falleness, the sin, the suffering — if you would — the effects of the evil one. The oil of catechumens is to remove from the life of the person to be baptized that trust in empty promises.”
The final oil — the oil of chrism — was carried in procession by Deacon David Carr, a seminarian who will be ordained with that oil during his Rite of Ordination to the priesthood on May 26. The archbishop consecrated this oil.
The oil of chrism is “the oil that crowns the head of the person baptized; that is placed in the sign of the cross on the forehead of the person to be confirmed; that will anoint three of our new priests — in six weeks and three days give or take a few hours,” the archbishop noted. “It’s the oil that’s used to consecrate an altar when a new church is built.”
In addition to the blessing of oils, the annual Chrism Mass also provides an opportunity for the presbyterate — the priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville — to renew the promises that they made during their ordinations.
The archbishop called on the priests to “return” to the time of their ordinations “to rekindle and renew those promises … because Christ and his people need you and deserve your good life.”
“The promises are always moving to our hearts when we’re asked once again to be united and conformed to Christ,” the archbishop said, noting his own experience in renewing his promises — which, he said, include the promises “to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of Christ — the way you celebrate the Mass, hear confessions and seek to reconcile others to you.” The priest, he said, also seeks to provide care.
“That’s the part that always touched my heart — not to do this for your own gain, but rather for the salvation of souls,” he noted. “What a great vocation. We salute and thank you for your willingness to renew once again those necessary promises.”
In closing his homily, the archbishop told the congregation that both the oils and the renewed promises are provided for the benefit of the faithful.
“My dear faithful, as you in a sense, watch the oil being blessed and as you watch or hear the renewal of promises made, remember, the oil and the promises are for you, because on Easter day, you will be called to renew your baptismal promises and as you do so, it is that gift that you’re given to use your vocation to renew the face of the earth in the name and through the power of Jesus Christ,” he said.