Mass of the Oils

St Patrick’s Cathedral Ballarat was filled with people from around the Diocese for the Mass of the Oils on Monday, March 30. The Mass of the Oils or Chrism Mass is very special to the Diocese as it is the annual celebration of the Diocesan Church of Ballarat.

People gathered with the Bishop and the priests of the Diocese for not just blessing oils and consecrating chrism, but also to pray for everyone and everything they will anoint in the coming year. The Oils blessed at this Mass – Oil of the Sick, Oil of Baptism and the Holy Chrism will reach:

  • Every Catholic in our diocese who becomes sick and is anointed;
  • Every baby and young child in our diocese who is baptised;
  • Every young person and adult in our diocese who are fully initiated into the community of the Church;

The gathering celebrates the unity of the Diocese where priests, religious and laity renew their commitment to call to serve in Christ's name as baptised members of his Church and sharers in his mission.

The Oils were brought forward to be blessed by catechumens and candidates who will be fully initiated into the Church at Easter and also by representatives of Diocesan and parish ministries. This year the oil bearers were:
Oil of the Sick
Mary Lancaster – Bereavement Ministry: St Joseph’s Parish, Warrnambool
Sonia Walker – Diocesan Clergy Wellbeing Co-ordinator
Clare McNulty – Pastoral Services: St John of God Hospital, Ballarat
Christina Sadowski – Member of the Professional Standards Panel
Flagon: Sr Telesia Taavoa CSN – Sisters of Nazareth, Ballarat: Nazareth House
Oil of Catechumens
Geraldine Ryan – Sponsor: St Joseph’s Parish, Warrnambool
Joanne Rix –Ballarat Campus Minister: Australian Catholic University
Sam O’Donnell – St Mary’s Parish, Birchip
John Meneely – Deputy Director: Catholic Education Office, Ballarat
Flagon: Narelle Biedermann – Candidate: St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Ballarat
Oil of Chrism
Chris Robarts – Chair, Parish Council: Ss Michael & John’s Parish, Horsham
Margaret Rowe – Diocesan President: Catholic Women’s League Victoria & Wagga Wagga
Daniel Van Styn – Youth Group: St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Ballarat
Kate Sewell – Candidate: St Pius X Parish, West Warrnambool
Flagon: Fr Barry Ryan PP – Jubilarian: Ordination to the Priesthood
Perfume: Holly Boyd – Confirmation Candidate: St Michael’s Parish, Bungaree

Bishop Bird was the principal celebrant with Bishop Peter Connors and the priests of the Diocese concelebrating. Fr Barry Ryan, Fr Justin Driscoll, Fr Bill Melican, Fr Eugene McKinnon, Fr Neville Stanislaus and Fr Wally Tudor were also main concelebrants as they celebrate significant anniversaries of their ordination this year. During his homily, Bishop Bird reflected that the holy oils “have been poured out upon us but it is not meant just for ourselves. The anointing we have received is meant to flow to those around us”.

Before the final blessing, Anne Eskdale from the Diocesan Pastoral Council called representatives of the parishes of the Diocese forward to collect the oils for their parish. These Oils were then received in the parishes at Mass on Holy Thursday evening.

Following Mass, all gathered in St Patrick’s Hall for supper.

Bishop Paul Bird’s homily from the Mass of the Oils follows:

Just two weeks after he was elected Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis celebrated the Chrism Mass, also called the Mass of the Oils, on Holy Thursday, 2013.

During his homily he reflected on a verse of one of the psalms about the anointing of Aaron the priest. Psalm 133 speaks of the oil running down the beard of Aaron and flowing down onto his robes. “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (Psalm 133:2).

Pope Francis used this as an image of the anointing that we receive from God. The anointing is not meant just for ourselves. Rather it’s meant to flow. It’s meant to flow to others.

Pope Francis also referred to a passage in the Book of Exodus that describes the priestly robes that Aaron wore. Pope Francis recalled that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on precious stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of Aaron’s garments, six names on the right shoulder-piece and six on the left (See Exodus 28:6-14). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the breastplate on the front of Aaron’s robes (See Exodus 28:21). This meant that Aaron was to carry on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and he was to bear their names written on his heart.

Pope Francis linked the garments of Aaron with the garments worn by priests today. He said: “When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people.”

If we bring these two texts together, the verse of the psalm and the verses from Exodus, we have the image of the oil poured out on the head, running down Aaron’s beard and then onto his robes, and on his robes are the names of the tribes of Israel, the people Aaron is to serve. So, the anointing that Aaron has received is not just meant to make him smell fragrant. The anointing is meant to flow to the people. The anointing is meant to bring blessings on the community.
Pope Francis applied this to the ministry of priests today. He said: “A good priest can be recognised by the way the people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of darkness. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged.”

There’s a clear message here for those who have been ordained as priests. The anointing that priests have received is meant to flow out as an anointing to the people they serve.

I would also like to suggest that there is a message here for us all – in so far as we all have a share in the priestly ministry of Christ through our baptism and our confirmation. The fragrant oil of chrism has been poured out upon us but it is not meant just for ourselves. The anointing we have received is meant to flow to those around us. We have been anointed with the oil of gladness. May we share that oil of gladness with those we meet day by day.

                                                                                           Bishop Paul Bird CSsR