LITURGY MATTERS: Come on down to the Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass is one of my favourite things. It’s big! It’s brassy! The voice of the faithful almost lifts the roof from the cathedral! The fragrance of Chrism fills the air. The cathedral and its precinct are abuzz with the joy of people meeting up from across the diocese. This is an opportunity not to be missed! Tuesday 26 March, 7.00pm at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Come on down!

The Chrism Mass is one of our major diocesan liturgies. We come from our parishes, our schools, our agencies and ministry groups to join together with Bishop Michael and all the clergy, reminding us that we belong to something bigger. It is this great diversity that enriches and strengthens our diocesan unity. It’s never either/or – parish or diocese. It is always both/and.  

And why do we gather for a Chrism Mass? What’s it all about? Strengthened by our rich diversity, we the faithful, are all sharers and participants in the one priesthood of Christ. To quote scripture, together we are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God ...’ [1 Pt 2:9]  

Chosen, consecrated and set apart for what? It’s certainly not to sit back and relax, or only to bathe in the warm glow of God’s love. We are chosen and anointed to continue the mission of Christ in the world here and now. At every Chrism Mass the same Word of God is proclaimed:

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: 

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind, new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ [Lk 4:16-21]

We, the members of Christ’s body, are anointed for this mission: to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind and to set the downtrodden free.

Our core business is evangelisation – proclaiming the Good News of God’s love – and baptising, which flows into the full process of Christian Initiation. [cf Mt 28:19-20]

Central to our shared mission and community is our sacramental life where we are anointed and fed to become more truly and deeply members of Christ’s body.

To empower and strengthen is for this life and mission, we the faithful are called to gather annually with our bishop to bless and consecrate the Sacred Oils for use in ministries of initiation, healing and consecration.

The Oil of Chrism is consecrated for use at baptisms and confirmations, for the ordination of priests and bishops, and for the dedication of churches and altars.

The Oil of Catechumens is blessed for use with catechumens and the Elect during their journey to and celebration of Christian Initiation.

The Oil of the Sick is blessed for use to bring comfort and strength to those who are sick and suffering.

I invite you to take some time to look at the prayers for the blessing and consecration of the Sacred Oils. A simple resource for prayer and reflection on the texts is available here. Note the language – ‘us’ and ‘we’.  ‘We pray.’ As with the language of all our liturgical celebrations, this is something we do together. Bishop Michael prays the prayers in our name. The prayers remind us that the ministries we are anointed for are the responsibility of all of us. The ministry of Initiation is the work of the whole parish. The care for the sick, the dying and the bereaved is the work of the whole parish. The work of consecrating the world to God is what we are all sent to do.

Our Sacred Oils are prepared by an enthusiastic team of people from across the diocese. This year the chrism (perfume) we are using is used by more than 30 dioceses around Australia and beyond – a sign of our belonging to an even larger expression of Church. Also, this year our mix of Olive Oil includes oil brought back from the Holy land last year by Bishop Michael and Fr Greg Barker.

Bishop Michael writes

While in the Holy Land … we were blessed to visit the olive grove in the Garden of Gethsemane. We were doubly blessed when our enquiries about olive oil led to the Franciscan custodians gifting us a container of olive oil pressed from the olives picked from the oldest trees in the garden.  Anybody who has visited Jerusalem knows how jealously these trees are guarded as they provide a physical link back to Jesus.

Fr Greg writes

We visited a number of sites in Palestine and met Christians and others living side by side, sharing life even in the midst of turmoil. It seemed appropriate given the land on which we were pilgrims, moving amongst both the natural and man-made wonders that Jesus himself had visited including olive groves, to bring back oil from there for use here. I was also fortunate to visit this ancient land once again toward the end of 2023 with our Catholic School leaders. We visited the Holy Child Program in Bethlehem, a centre educating children disadvantaged by poverty, disability and violence or a combination of these factors. The teachers spend much of their own time and money helping these kids, including pressing and selling olive oil. They gifted us a bottle of the oil they themselves had grown and pressed and asked us to pray for them and for peace in their land so that every child no matter their circumstance would have the chance to prosper.  


The Chrism Mass is one of my favourite things because it renews me and inspires me and connects me to my sisters and brothers with whom I share the gift of faith and the mission it impels us into. I am changed by it, and I need to experience that with you and all those who will gather on Tuesday 26 March at 7.00pm in the Cathedral.    

I particularly encourage parish communities to bring along your Catechumens, Elect and Candidates for full communion. Invite those families who hope to present their children for the Sacraments of Initiation. I encourage school leaders to come along and bring members of staff and families who you know are searching for that ‘more’ that we know can only be found in God.   

And finally, as usual musicians – voice and instrumentalists - who would like to join the music ministry at the Chrism Mass are warmly welcome. When you click on the invitation link below the flyer gives more detail and a QR code to scan to register. Registration is necessary so all the right music can be arranged for the first practice.  

A template for parishes looking for a ritual to receive the oils sent by Bishop Michael from the Chrism Mass is available as a pdf or Word document download.

There is nothing like good liturgy to fan the flame of faith in our hearts. I look forward to seeing you at the Chrism Mass.

Diocesan Liturgy Council Update

To keep abreast of the work of the Diocesan Liturgy Council you can review the Report from the February meeting here.


Image: @ Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. All rights reserved.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults © 1985, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.