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Chrism Mass — a celebration of joy and renewal

Apr 8, 2015

Bishop Paul Sirba said March 30 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary that it may be one of the few times in his life he’ll have the privilege to celebrate two Chrism Masses in a year — the one he was in the midst of for the Diocese of Duluth and the one he had celebrated the previous week in the neighboring Diocese of Superior, Wis., where the faithful are awaiting a new bishop after Bishop Peter Christensen was assigned to the Diocese of Boise, Idaho.

“It was, like ours, a beautiful celebration,” he said, joking that he “felt quite at home” given that the reserved parking space, just like in Duluth, is next to the dumpster.

Chrism Mass
At the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth, Bishop Paul Sirba blesses one of the holy oils for use at parishes throughout the diocese. (Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

The annual Chrism Mass is one of the signature liturgies of Holy Week. At it, the diocesan bishop blesses the holy oils used in the sacraments throughout the year, and priests renew the promises of their ministry. The Chrism Mass in the Duluth Diocese was also attended by religious, deacons, seminarians, representatives from nearly all of the parishes of the diocese and catechumens and candidates who will soon be received into full communion with the Catholic Church, to whom Bishop Sirba said, simply, “welcome home.”

In Rome, the Chrism Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday, but in many other parts of the world it is celebrated at another time due to the travel distances so that priests preparing for the Triduum in their parishes can also be present.

“This Chrism Mass is always a sign of our unity and our communion; it’s also a very, very beautiful liturgy,” Bishop Sirba said in his homily.

“Like the three oils that will be blessed, the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick and the sacred Chrism, I’d like to offer you three points of reflection on joy,” he said, inspired by his reading and rereading of Pope Francis.

Joy leads others to Christ

First, the bishop spoke of joy itself, which he identified in the spiritual sense as “a fruit of the Holy Spirit” and therefore more than a feeling, which “flows from the great virtue of charity” and can’t be forced but can be nurtured. It accompanies the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, he said, and from living in a state of grace.

“Joy is the inner delight of knowing that we are loved by God,” he said, citing Pope Francis, a point that can be part of daily prayer and examinations of conscience.

He also said joy is important in a witness. “Joy has a quality that leads others to Christ,” he said, noting that he thinks that’s why Pope Francis keeps drawing attention to it.

His second point of reflection was joy as it relates to the New Evangelization. He noted ongoing work by the diocese at the annual Assembly and men’s and women’s conferences, as well as workshops with the Catherine of Sienna Institute, centered around “forming intentional disciples.”

Among the goals, he said, was to “give our Catholic people their birthright” and invite them to the joys of a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Third, he spoke of the joy of the sacraments. “Sacraments are personal encounters — the most personal encounters — for relationships we have this side of heaven with Jesus Christ,” he said.

“Joy comes from meeting Jesus,” he added.

The bishop expressed incredulity that a Catholic could miss weekly Mass and the personal encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, comparing it to the sight of people rushing out on a big shopping day like Black Friday to be part of the experience and walking out with just a pair of socks.

At the close of the Mass, representatives from each of the parishes processed forward to meet the bishop and then receive the oils, which are then taken back to the parishes and presented during the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.

— By Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross