By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Chrism Mass brings people of diocese together
DAVENPORT — Students in Lola Blaser’s eighth-grade confirmation class at St. Joseph School in DeWitt expressed awe in witnessing their first Chrism Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on April 7. An annual celebration of faith, unity and commitment, the Chrism Mass brings together the priests, deacons and bishops and lay people of the diocese.
During this Mass, Bishop Martin Amos blesses the three oils used in the sacramental life of the diocesan Church: the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumen and the Sacred Chrism. The priests of the diocese renew their priestly commitment at this Mass.
“It was pretty cool seeing all the priests at once,” remarked St. Joseph eighth-grader Keenan Riedesel, 14. At the end of April, Bishop Amos will confirm Keegan and his classmates with the Sacred Chrism they saw the bishop bless at the Chrism Mass. Skylar Bloom, 14, said the blessing of the oils was a highlight for her. “We just learned about the oils in class,” she said. Each parish receives the blessed oils for use in the coming year.
“I like to point out to those being confirmed that they will be anointed with the oil of Chrism and that ‘Chrism’ has the same root stem as Christ,” Bishop Amos said in his Chrism Mass homily. “Christ” was not the surname of Jesus, but a title. In English, it means “the anointed one.” The bishop observed that in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples of Jesus called themselves ‘Christians’ (the anointed ones) for the first time.”
The Church begins to take its shape with Jesus and his disciples and Peter, and continues on. “Many of us have joined the story. Others will join the story at the Easter Vigil,” the bishop said.
In a real sense, the Church is a family tree that has “great saints and, sadly, great sinners. It has faced trials from within and without. It has been embraced and misunderstood. Like any family tree is has its ups and downs and its nuts” (the congregation laughed at the bishop’s quip).
More importantly, it is a great story, “a story we remember every time we gather together around this table, a story that each of us is part of, a story that is still being written.”
Bishop Amos described the Chrism Mass as a special liturgy for him, as he joins with the laity, deacons, and priests. “This Mass manifests (the priests’) communion with me.”
The priests stood, and in unison, signified their commitment to priestly ministry; the bishop asked the congregation to signify their support of the priests, and to pray for them.
Some 500 or so people had come from throughout the diocese for the Chrism Mass, and Bishop Amos thanked them. He thanked his concelebrants: Bishop Emeritus William Franklin of the Davenport Diocese, Bishop Emeritus Joseph Charron, C.PP.S., of the Des Moines Diocese, and nearly 60 priests of the Davenport Diocese. He thanked the 23 deacons at the Mass and all who had a role in organizing this liturgy.
Fourteen-year-old Melanie Matyasse of St. Joe’s School felt a sense of appreciation, as well. The Mass, she said, “was faithful and enlightening. I loved how everyone was singing and everyone was praising God together.”
“The Chrism Mass brings the local Church together around the table of the Lord,” Bishop Amos had said in his homily. “Here we join Christ our head to be nourished for the journey ahead.”
“ … Just as Andrew sought his brother Peter and brought him to Jesus, at the end of this Eucharist we will be sent forth — renewed, strengthened and nourished — to be a healing balm (or presence), to speak words of wisdom (or to help strengthen those who are bowed down), to proclaim to all the Christ and Christ crucified, to continue telling the story.”
The students from St. Joe’s in DeWitt will do their part, continuing the story with their confirmation. And so will Eileen O’Brien, a teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport who attends the Chrism Mass every year.
“I love it because everyone joins in,” she said. “Everyone is here because they choose to be. It’s so powerful and moving.”