Chrism Mass

Mar 26, 2018

This week In every diocese of the world bishops will call together the people and priests of the diocese to celebrate the Chrism Mass. Traditionally this Mass has been celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, but in recent decades to enable a greater number of people to take part the Chrism Mass is often celebrated earlier in the week.

For a diocesan priest like me, the diocese in which we serve is our family. This means that over the decades that a priests may serve in parishes and ministries throughout the diocese the people of the diocese will get to know their priests well. As in any family, parishioners of a diocesan family will see priests at their best, and (because our lives are fairly public within a diocese) people will probably see the worst of their priests as well. This means that love is both possible and necessary, evidenced (as in a biological family) in forgiveness of failings and prayer, priest for the people and the people for their priests.

At the Chrism Mass there are two important moments that happen only once a year, the blessing of the oils which are used throughout the diocese in the celebration of the sacraments and the priests together renew their priestly promises.

For the priests, this Mass is at the heart of our lives as priests in a diocese since not only do we renew our priestly promises, but we also receive the Holy Oils which are the tools of our trade.

This phrase “tools of our trade” may not sound worthy of the sacred oils, but imagine a carpenter without a hammer and saw or a surgeon without a scalpel. Their work would be impossible. It is in the celebration of the sacraments and the use of these holy oils that a priest is most a priest in bridging any distance that remains between heaven and earth and between Jesus and us his beloved.

In Christchurch we have added pleasure of celebrating this Mass led by our new bishop Paul Martin.

Priests often comment as we gather in the foyer of the cathedral before Mass about how moved they are seeing so many of the people of our parishes present at the Chrism Mass.  The presence of parishioners of the diocese is a powerful and practical support for priests.


An Invitation:

Take a moment to reflect on the words of the priests’ renewal of commitment below.

If you are able to be at the Chrism Mass in your diocese your priests will be most grateful and you will be rewarded with a powerful experience of the local church, people and priests gathered with their bishop. If you are not able to be present, you might use the text below when you get a chance as a prayer for priests you know, naming those for whom you are most grateful, and also praying for those you think might be struggling.


Renewal of Priestly Promises for priests of a Catholic diocese.

After the homily, the bishop speaks with the priests in these or similar words.

Beloved sons,
on the anniversary of that day
when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood
on his Apostles and on us,
are you resolved to renew,
in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people,
the promises you once made?

The priests, all together, respond: I am.

Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus
and more closely conformed to him,
denying yourselves and confirming those promises
about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church
which, prompted by love of him,
you willingly and joyfully pledged
on the day of your priestly ordination?

Priests: I am.

Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God
in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites
and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching,
following Christ the Head and Shepherd,
not seeking any gain,
but moved only by zeal for souls?

Priests: I am.

Then, turned towards the people, the bishop continues:

As for you, dearest sons and daughters,
pray for your Priests,
that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them,
and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest,
so that they may lead you to him,
who is the source of salvation.

People: Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

And pray also for me,
that I may be faithful to the apostolic office
entrusted to me in my lowliness
and that in your midst I may be made day by day
a living and more perfect image of Christ,
the Priest, the Good Shepherd,
the Teacher and the Servant of all.

People: Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

May the Lord keep us all in his charity
and lead all of us,
shepherds and flock,
to eternal life.

All: Amen.


  1. Father we are also more than grateful for the privilege of having serving Priests in our diocese and pray daily for you all that you may have all the support you need from all your parishioners both spiritually and in all other worldly ways we can batter assist. God bless you all.

  2. How blessed we are to have such generous men, with so much ‘zeal for souls’…..may the LORD be your strength, may His love guide you and may you be filled with His peace.

  3. A few years ago I could not get to the Chrism mass here in Christchurch because of a meeting but offered to pick up a friend afterwards. When I arrived mass was not yet finished so I waited outside in the street

    I could hear the recessional hymn being played – before the doors were flung wide open and the priests processed out. The muted tones of the congregation were drowned out by the deep voices of 50 or so priests singing together as they slowly filled up the lobby at the entrance of the church.
    “Christ be our light. Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness …”
    I was surprised at how strongly you all continued to sing these words together and how moving it was to listen to.

    Then there was much shaking of hands and slapping of backs & conversation as you all enjoyed a final minute together with your bishop and fellow priests. Vestments were flung off and carefully folded by some ( or rolled up in a crumpled ball by others!) as car keys, mobiles etc were gathered.

    Moments later the congregation flooded out – to greet their priests, and other friends, from around the diocese. There was much laughing and shouting and talking and re-acquainting for the next half hour or so – as we are rarely together as a diocese like this.

    And then we all drove home to our homes & parishes – under the (nearly) Easter moon


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