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The Celebration of the Chrism Mass

On the evening of April 10, 2017 Bishop William T. McGrattan will celebrate one of the most significant liturgical events of the church year. Bishop McGrattan will gather with the priests, deacons, and laity of the Diocese at the Cathedral for the Chrism Mass. The gathering of a diocesan community around its bishop is the preeminent manifestation of the local church. The local church is one body made up of many parts with Christ as its head. The body is united with the crucified and risen Jesus — God’s anointed one — through baptism and as a community shares in the riches and consolation of Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit through the sacramental ministry of its bishop and priests.

The Chrism Mass highlights the manifestation of the priests’ communion with the bishop.  Here also, the bishop acknowledges the services of the priests and deacons, often recognizing significant anniversaries of ordination. As a sign of loyalty and obedience, the priests renew their commitment to their vocation and ministerial service, promising fidelity in fulfilling their office in the Church and to the bishop. In the Diocese of Calgary, the deacons similarly renew their commitment. The bishop asks the faithful of the Diocese to continue to support him, as well as the priests and deacons through their ongoing prayers and love.

According to the Early Church Fathers, the olive tree was an image of God, the Father. The fruits that sprout from that tree are seen as the image of God, the Son. The image of God, the Holy Spirit is the oil that flows out in every direction as the purest extract of both the tree and the fruit.

In earlier times, oil was used in cooking, particularly in the making of bread, as a fuel for lamps, and as a healing agent in medicine. Moreover, the Jews anointed the head of a guest with oil as a sign of welcome. Oil beautified one’s appearance, and oil was used to prepare a body for burial. When the Church uses the blessed oil in its sacramental celebrations, it represents the outward sign of the power of salvation, which comes from the Trinity. At the Chrism Mass, three different oils are prepared. Two are blessed and one is consecrated, following traditions that have existed from very early in the Church’s history.

The oil of the catechumens is used to anoint those to be baptized as a reminder of the ancient athletes who once fought in the arena with their bodies covered in oil so that their enemies were unable to grab hold and hurl them to the ground. The catechumens are anointed with this oil to remind them that the Christian life is full of struggle, most especially a struggle with Satan and sin.

The oil of the sick is prepared to fulfill the instruction from St. James who wrote, “Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the priests of the Church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, forgiveness will be his” [Jas 5:14-15]. When administering the sacrament of the sick, the priest, anointing the forehead of the person, says, “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit,” and then anointing his hands, says, “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.”

The Sacred Chrism is prepared in a special way. Chrism is a mixture of ­olive oil and balsam, an aromatic resin. In Old Testament times, the priest, prophets, and kings of the Jewish people were said to have been anointed. The biblical word for one who was anointed was Messiah. Translated into Greek, the language of the New Testament, Messiah becomes Christos, or Christ, who was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Being anointed means one is set apart, chosen, and directed to carry out the will of God. Therefore, this oil is used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops, and the dedication of churches to set them apart for a special mission and purpose for God. During the consecration of the chrism the concelebrants at the Chrism Mass extend their right hands toward the chrism as the bishop says the consecratory prayer, signifying that in union with their bishop they share “in the authority by which Christ Himself builds up and sanctifies and rules His Body,” the Church [Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1563].

At the end of the Chrism Mass, the oils that were blessed and the Chrism that was consecrated are distributed to representatives from every parish in the diocese for use in the celebration of the sacraments throughout the year. Individual parishes typically receive the holy oils in a procession at the beginning of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper later the same week.

In our spiritual journey, we have become joined to Christ through the celebration of the sacraments and are called, challenged, blessed, and anointed with the oils of gladness so that we too may become heralds of the good news by proclaiming glad tidings to the lowly, healing to the broken, liberty to those held captive, and comfort to the sorrowful.

Related Offices Carillon Office of Liturgy
Related Themes Diocesan Event

One Rock: Celebrating Life in Christ

The blessings that have been born out of the One Rock Festival of Faith would not be possible if it were not for the donors and sponsors who back the festival on a yearly basis. In the Diocese of Calgary we have a lot to be thankful for, and particularly for the diverse and ever expanding programs for our youth and young adults. Over the last eight years our programs have expanded from 24 youth programs to more than 37, and young adult ministries encompassed either within these programs or attached to universities, and other post-secondary education facilities, and groups. Every year One Rock strives to reach those who are not only within these existing programs, but also those in the universities, who are not affiliated with a church community on a weekly basis, and to the wider community as well.

The number of Roman Catholics in the Diocese of Calgary has doubled in size over the last 19 years. This is exciting news, but it also means that it costs more to run the programs, and we need you to help us. Will you share of the abundance of what you have received as gift from God? Come and hear what your generosity does for young people, and how the festival has made a difference in their lives.


Bishop McGrattan and the One Rock team invite you to a Wine and Cheese event to hear of the great things that God has done for us, and to encourage you to step out in faith to share of your treasure.

Related Offices Youth & Young Adult Carillon
Related Themes Youth and Young Adults Youth

The Most Humbling Act

Mandatum novum do vobis: I give you a new commandment.– John 13:34

One of my favourite words is Maundy. Growing up I never knew what Maundy Thursday meant. I just knew that it was a pretty serious time during Easter. For a while I used the word interchangeably with maudlin, and came to think of the maundies as relating to sadness and gloom. So it was with some surprise that I eventually learned that it meant commandment, from the Old French mandé, and from the Latin, mandatum. Its connection to church practice comes from Christ’s own words: “Mandātum novum dō vōbīs,” or “I give you a new commandment.”

We celebrate Maundy Thursday during Holy Week, during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It was there that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. You will remember the dramatic retelling of this episode in John 13 when Jesus not only identifies Judas as his betrayer, but also humbles himself to wash the feet of his disciples. Peter appears to bristle at the intent, but Jesus explains: “If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.” The point of the gesture, and one that Jesus insists on, is that this is a moment of communion with the other that must be passed on through all our relationships. “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

The obvious contemporary parallel to this behavior has been modeled by Pope Francis, who time and again has chosen to wash the feet of the other, first at a youth detention centre, then prisoners and then women. More than his decision to live outside the Papal palace or to eschew luxury vehicles, the Pope’s washing of the feet is a deeply symbolic connection to Christ’s demonstrated ministry. It is also an example of servant leadership, where the most humbling act brings the highest and lowest to the place of common bond where God first placed us.

It is perhaps because of this that Maundy Thursday matters so much, but also that we need to move past the bristling that Peter showed, especially when we look at those who are not like us: the outsider, the marginal, the struggling and the lost. Our need to look beyond formal rules and regulations and reach out, despite whatever fear or strangeness separates us, is not only important, but mandated. Christ did not come to make us comfortable; he came to make us grow. So when He calls, who are we to turn away?

Related Offices Carillon
Related Themes Lent Catholic Education

The Seven Last Words of Christ

Devotion to the Seven Last Words, the seven last phrases Jesus uttered from the cross, can be traced at least to the twelfth century. St. Bonaventure made a commentary on them, the Franciscans helped spread their popularity, and soon promises of salvation were made to those who meditated on the Words. This devotion can appear a heavy, gloomy spirituality, dwelling on suffering and sin. And yet as Fr. Thomas Rosica points out in this small book of reflections there is much more here. These words – seven – the number of perfection – stand in relief against the silence of death.

The Cross is the pivotal point of our faith, the bridge between death and resurrection. The three hours Jesus spent on the Cross are sometimes marked by Christians in a Tre Ore liturgy. Fr. Rosica sets the scene for his reflections with Pope Francis’ powerful prayer at the conclusion of the Stations of the Cross in 2016. Here we see the Cross of Christ echoed in contemporary examples of evil and violence but also in the faithful response of those who love and serve, heroic and hidden.

Throughout the seven reflections Fr. Rosica reveals Jesus as the perfect model of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. Even at this time of maximum agony, isolation, and disgrace he shows us how we can live. Using imagination, theological insight, and direct language Fr. Rosica, known to many of us through his work with Salt + Light, and recently in Calgary for Bishop McGrattan’s Installation rite, draws out the life-giving nature of the Words. For example, while I don’t suppose you are meant to have a “favourite” among the Last Words, in the light of these reflections mine is the third word. The scene at the foot of the cross that depicts the “small seed group” of the communion of the saints. In some ways, it is “the first real communion of holy people gathered around holy things,” in Christian understanding at least, and a foreshadowing of a Messianic people too numerous to count.

How can we look on such horror, let alone meditate on it? Don’t we see enough – on the news, in our own experience? The anguish of abandonment heard in the Fourth Word is but the beginning of Psalm 22 that in the end resounds with praise reverberating through time and encompassing the world. Suffering is not the end; because of Jesus’ death we experience resurrection with him.

Fr. Rosica makes the connection between Gospel revelation of Jesus’ passion and our lives today it a way that makes the traditional meditations of the Tre Ore service fruitful for all Christians young and old. Using anecdotes about Mother Teresa, and even a quotation from author Toni Morrison, these reflections explore the idea that our example can be, echoing Jesus, a point of embarkation or a foundation for others in their own journey to God. If we wish to be able to pray like our master Jesus at our own deaths then as Fr. Rosica says, we had better start praying these words now and “liv[ing] our way into that loving surrender of our lives to God.”

1 Forgiveness Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing Luke 23:33-34
2 Salvation Today, you will be with me in Paradise Luke 23:39-43
3 Relationship Woman, here is your son… Here is your mother John 19:25-27
4 Abandonment My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Matthew 27:45-46
5 Distress I am thirsty John 19:28
6 Triumph It is finished John 19: 29-30
7 Reunion Father, into your hands I commend my spirit Luke 23:44-46
Related Offices Archives Carillon Library
Related Themes Lent

The Diocesan Detective Investigates St. Mary’s Church, Calgary

Father Lacombe was assigned as ‘Chaplain’ to the Canadian Pacific Railway work camps east of Winnipeg in 1880 by Archbishop Taché and for two years his ‘Sacred Heart Mission’ followed the progress of the construction as it moved west.

William C. Van Horne, Chief Engineer of the CPR, describes his introduction to Fr. Lacombe: “Near the Lake of the Woods one morning in 1882 I saw a priest standing on a flat rock, his crucifix in his right hand and his broad hat in the other, silhouetted against the rising sun… It was a scene never to be forgotten and the noble and saintly countenance of the priest brought it to me that it must be Fr. Lacombe of whom I had heard so much; and it was.”

Fr. Lacombe was already a legend to the CPR owners but he was equally in awe of them and the project they were undertaking. He was also keenly aware of the monumental impact the railway would have on the North West.

In his book, simply titled, Father Lacombe, author James MacGregor records the priest’s words: “I would look long in silence at that road coming on — like a band of wild geese in the sky — cutting its way through the prairies; opening up the great country we thought would be ours for years. Like a vision I could see it driving my poor Indians before it, and spreading out behind it the farms, the towns and the cities you see today.”

An entry in Fr. Lacombe’s journal about this time gives us an indication of his state of mind: “My God, send me back again to my old Indian missions… I am longing for that!” His prayers would soon be answered. Although he was not a fan of the rowdy conduct of the work crews, they obviously liked him… when he left, they chipped in to buy him a ‘horse and wagon’ outfit to take him back to St. Albert!

In 1882, Fr. Lacombe’s hopes were finally realized and Bishop Grandin of St. Albert appointed him Superior of the Southern Missions, based in Calgary.

His first priority was to make plans for the expansion of buildings at “Our Lady of Peace,” soon to be known as St. Mary’s, and to visit each reserve to assess its needs. It wasn’t long, however, before he was involved in more critical events of national importance.

By 1883, construction of the CPR had passed Medicine Hat and it was on its way to Calgary. The ‘right of way’ was infringing on the Blackfoot Reserve boundaries. Crowfoot and his fellow chiefs were threatening to resist any trespassing on their land… violence was possible.

When the government hesitated to act, Fr. Lacombe came to the rescue, taking advantage of his friendly relationship with Crowfoot. Without getting government approval first, he brought gifts and food out to the reserve and negotiated a land swap so that the tribe would be satisfied. The Canadian government happily complied with Fr. Lacombe’s compromise to keep the peace, and the directors of the CPR were grateful as well that construction would continue unimpeded.

When railway construction finally reached Calgary, Fr. Lacombe was invited to a luncheon with all the CPR executives in their dining car. To honour his contribution to the ongoing construction of the railway, President George Stephen resigned his leadership of the company and Fr. Lacombe was voted as honorary President of the CPR for one hour! He took immediate advantage of his situation and assigned himself two free passes on the trains, free freight for the Oblate Missions, and free use of the telegraph wires, for life!

Related Offices Archives Carillon Library
Related Themes Diocesan History Evangelization
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