Bishop W. Shawn McKnight invites Catholics and those preparing to receive Easter sacraments to join him and the priests of the diocese at this year’s Chrism Mass.
It will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.
Offered each year in this diocese a week in advance of Holy Thursday, the Chrism Mass highlights and solidifies the bonds between the bishop, priests, the sacraments and all the faithful who receive them.
Bishop McKnight will bless the oils and consecrate the Sacred Chrism that will be used for sacraments in every parish in the diocese throughout the upcoming year.
Joining him at the altar will be Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos, the priests of this diocese and those from other dioceses and religious orders who are ministering here.
The priests will take the oils back to their parishes and use them to administer the sacraments of baptism and anointing of the sick throughout the upcoming year.
The bishop will use the Oil of Chrism in administering confirmation and in the ordination of priests and the consecrating of churches and altars.
Strength in unity
The Chrism Mass recalls the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood so His sacred work could continue to be carried out until the end of this age.
Since only bishops may consecrate Chrism, the Chrism Mass highlights the bishop’s ministry and the union of the priests with him.
It also symbolizes the unity among the priests and the people to whom they are sent to minister.
Accordingly, the bishops and priests will also renew the promises they made when they were ordained.
“Seeing all the priests stand up, and in a very heartfelt way reaffirm their commitment and desire to serve the people well — for me, that is one of the most emotionally touching aspects of the Chrism Mass,” said Father Daniel Merz, pastor of St. George parish in Linn and Our Lady Help of Christians parish in Frankenstein.
As members of one Holy Priesthood, the priests will stand on the steps of the cathedral sanctuary, facing the altar and the crucifix, and renew their promises together.
“It’s always moving to me for us to stand up before God and His people and say, ‘We are weak, maybe even damaged. But with the grace of God, we still want to serve,’” said Fr. Merz.
This highlights not only their bond with God and with the people but also with one another.
“This is a key teaching of the Church,” Fr. Merz said. “We don’t minister individually but as a presbyterate — an order of priests. In other words, we need each other’s support in order to minister well.”
A year’s worth of blessings
The annual blessing of the sacramental oils dates from the early Church. It originally was part of the Holy Thursday Liturgy, since the Last Supper was not only the origin of the Eucharist but also the Holy Priesthood.
The Oil of Catechumens is used for infants during the baptismal ceremony, and for the anointing of catechumens during the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as they prepare to be baptized. It designates all members of the Church as learners in the Church and gives them a protecting strength in the contest against evil.
The Oil of the Sick is used in the sacrament of anointing of the sick.
Sacred Chrism is used in baptism, as well as confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops and the anointing of churches and altars.
Gifts of the people
To emphasize the role of the deacon as an intermediary between the bishop and the people he serves, Bishop McKnight will have permanent deacons present the oils for blessing this year.
Deacon Ric Telthorst, who facilitates the initiation process at St. Peter parish in Jefferson City, will present the Oil of Catechumens.
Deacon Paul Poulter, who assists the pastor of Our Lady of the Lake parish in Lake Ozark, will present the Oil of the Sick.
Deacon R. Christopher Baker, who helps parents prepare to have their children baptized at Cathedral of St. Joseph parish in Jefferson City, will present the Oil of Sacred Chrism.
Deacon Al Brand, who assists the pastor of the Cathedral parish, will present the balsam the bishop will mix with the Oil of Chrism to give it its distinctive aroma.
Sister Bernita Wasinger of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who ministers to the elderly and homebound; and Sister Elizabeth Youngs of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese, will present the bread and wine for the Mass.
Students from Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia will serve as lectors and altar servers and will help carry the blessed oil and consecrated Chrism into the Cathedral Undercroft for distribution to the priests after Mass.
Assisting at the altar will be Deacon Dan Joyce of the Cathedral parish, who is interim president of Tolton Catholic, and Deacon Louis Leonatti of St. Brendan parish in Mexico.
The right words
Bishop McKnight will use the newly approved translations of the Prayer of Consecration for the Sacred Chrism and the prayers of blessing for the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick.
Fr. Merz, who helped with the new translations while serving as associate director of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship, said getting the prayers just right was challenging work.
“That Prayer of Consecration of Chrism is on the level of the Eucharistic Prayer,” he said. “It’s very elaborate and very Scriptural, and it’s very structured.”
Translated from Latin, it recounts the anointing of patriarchs, prophets and kings through salvation history, leading up to God sending His own Son, His Anointed One, to forge a new covenant with His people.
“That was probably the most difficult text I’ve ever worked on,” said Fr. Merz. “There are all of these clauses that are subordinate and coordinate, and you’re trying to bring out the connection that ‘God does this in order to do this, in order to do this.’ The structure in the prayer reflects the hierarchy of truths — that some truths are dependent on other truths — and it’s important to get the priorities straight. If we get the most important truths right, the rest will follow.
“It’s magnificent but hard to put into good English in a way that captures all of that structure and majesty,” Fr. Merz noted. “I hope what we have does that pretty well.”
Before the Chrism Mass, the priests will spend the day together in the cathedral at a day of recollection led by Monsignor Frank P. Lane, a priest of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, and longtime seminary professor.
The theme will be: “Sacred Heart Devotion and Priestly Ministry.”
They will also observe the 65th priestly anniversary of Father C. Duane Ryan, a retired priest who served in Laurie and Versailles for many years; and the 25th priestly anniversaries of Bishop McKnight; Father Angelus Minj, a visiting priest from the Diocese of Jashpur, India; and Father Roberto M. Ike from the Diocese of Okigwe, Nigeria, chairman of the Business Department at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.