The Chrism Mass is a Holy Week tradition when Holy Oils are blessed and consecrated while priests from across the Diocese stand united with the Bishop.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane, joined by the priests of the Diocese of Venice, celebrated the Chrism Mass on March 30, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. To accommodate the latest guidance on social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings, only priests and Permanent Deacons and their wives were present for the Mass. The public was able to view this Mass via a livestream.
“Gather here for this Chrism Mass, quite different from a year ago for all of us, indeed a much better vision for me seeing all of you,” Bishop Dewane remarked at the opening of the Mass as seeing more than 120 priests present. “We gather here for an important reason, to bless and consecrate the oils to be used throughout the Diocese in the sacramental life of the Church.”
The Chrism Mass marks a celebration and is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese. By having all the priests of the Diocese come together on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds each of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi.
During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice saying, “I am,” three times in response to questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them during their Ordination to the Priesthood.
Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice for what they do each day, and in particular during the ongoing response to the Pandemic. “Reflect that a year ago we were not able to gather – and not able to do many things because we simply didn’t know. We have come to realize there are things we can do. We can gather to give glory and praise to God.”
While addressing the priests directly, Bishop Dewane cited the readings of the day from the Prophet Isaiah, Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of Luke, which identify those who are called to be priests.
“The idea of being made is something that is truly ongoing, a work in progress,” the Bishop continued. “The strength of Christ is given to you and it has made your identity as a priest. It makes you new in the Lord, over and over again.”
At Dioceses around the world, Pope Francis and local Bishops carry out the annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated during Holy Week, on or before Holy Thursday. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is traditionally celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel great distances. This year was no different.
The Chrism Mass takes its name from the Sacred Chrism oil, which the Bishop blesses and consecrates for use by Parish priests of the Diocese throughout the coming year.
The Order of the Blessing of the oils and consecration of the Sacred Chrism takes place at different times during the Mass. Vested in white, Bishop Dewane, raised hands over the urns on a table near the altar and first blessed the Oil of the Sick at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. Following the Prayer After Communion, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens.
Before the final blessing, the final portion is the consecration of the Sacred Chrism oil. First balsam is poured into the oil and then mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity” – the faithful are called to strive for sanctity. The Bishop then extended his hands toward the vessel containing the oils and said the prayer of consecration. The celebration is brought to a close with a final blessing.
The Oil of the Sick is used for those who seek the Anointing of the Sick, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for Sacrament of Baptism, are simply “blessed,” by the Bishop, while the Sacred Chrism is “consecrated.” The Sacred Chrism is used for Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders as well as the consecration of altars and dedication of churches.
The Chrism Mass brings together the entire Presbyterate (all active priests in the Diocese) and would normally be witnessed by more than 1,000 people, including religious, student representatives from each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools, Knights of Columbus Color Corps and Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta as well as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.
Recognized during the Chrism Mass were priests and deacons celebrating 50 and 25 years since their ordination. The priest Golden Jubilarians were: Father Roger L. Charbonneau; Father Donald H. Henry; Father Paul F. McLaughlin; Father Patrick C. Organ; and Father Patrick Oliver Toner. The priest Silver Jubilarians were: Father John M. Belmonte, SJ; Father John F. Costello; and Father Pawel Kawelec. The deacon Silver Jubilarians were: Deacon Gary Christoff; Deacon Michael F. Cristoforo; and Deacon David R. Jerome. A complete biography of each jubilarian can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/news/.