A “COVID stoppage” not stopped by COVID
With the autumn colours outside matching the colour of the oils inside, there was a near capacity participation at this year’s annual blessing of the oils at St Christopher’s Cathedral.
A major event on the church’s calendar and held on the Monday evening of Holy Week, the Chrism Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Christopher Prowse with 70 fellow clergy as concelebrants.
The evening’s centrepiece was the solemn presentation by three young members of the clergy of the three sacred oils for blessing and consecration by Archbishop Christopher.
One jar contained Oil of the Infirm (used for Anointing the Sick); the second, Oil of Catechumens (for baptisms), and the third, Oil of Sacred Chrism (also containing a balsam fragrance, used for baptisms, confirmations and ordinations).
During his homily, the Archbishop reflected on the significance of receiving the oils during sacraments such as Baptism, Confirmation, or Ordination which might be described – using a description coined by Pope Francis – as a “COVID stoppage”, a watershed event (like COVID) that led someone to rethink their priorities in life.
This observation especially resonated with Fiona Rochford, a participant at the celebnration and an adult convert to the faith, who had already received the sacred oils during Baptism and the Anointing of the Sick.
“It [the Chrism Mass] was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. Seeing the oils used in my sacraments meant a lot to me,” Fiona said speaking after Mass.
Kristina Faigl was also present with her husband, Raphael, and their baby, Pip, who is shortly to be baptised. She thought the service was “very beautiful” and “meticulously planned” although she said her husband, being a non-Catholic, found the service a little hard to follow.
The Mass also attracted visitors from outside the Archdiocese with Fr Michael Dyer leading a small group of parishioners from Milton in NSW’s Shoalhaven district who took time out from a retreat on the south coast to participate in the Chrism Mass.
In addition to the blessing of the oils, the clergy also renewed their priestly vows during the service.
As no congregation was permitted last year, this year’s Chrism Mass – with COVID registration and spacing – was a welcome return to ‘near normal’ for a landmark ceremony that traditionally falls at the start of Holy Week.