Many of us will possibly attend the Chrism Mass at our local diocesan cathedral this week. This is the mass where the bishop blesses and consecrates the three sacred oils: Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism. At the conclusion of this liturgy the oils are distributed to every parish in the diocese and received into each local church at the Holy Thursday evening liturgy.
But the question I often get is, “Where does the oil come from?”
And for our diocese, the answer is where else, but Sam’s Club!
So here is a pictorial view of the process:
About two weeks before Holy Week a trip is made to Sam's Club to purchase 22 gallons of Olive Oil - extra virgin, of course! And Yes! One does get strange looks when checking out of the store with this much olive oil!
Volunteers gather and after prayer the work begins in mixing chrism essence and balsam oil with the olive oil to make what will be consecrated as the Sacred Chrism. The other two oils, are poured without any additives.
The oil, after being poured into individual eight ounce glass bottles, is packaged three bottles to a bag (one bottle of each oil). The bags are packed out into wicker baskets that are used in the procession to the altar of the cathedral at the start of the Chrism Mass.
Anointing with oil is one of the most ancient blessings in the history of the Church. It is the Oil of Catechumens that will welcome all to the Church during their baptism. It is the Oil of the Sick that will be used to comfort and bless those who are ill in anyway. And it is Sacred Chrism that will be used to baptize, confirm and to ordain.
Let us keep in prayer this week the 150,000 adult men and woman in the United States who will be baptized this Easter, knowing that they will be anointed with the blessed Oil of Catechumen and Sacred Chrism and thus share in the common priesthood of all believers.