Oils of Holy Week

One of the tasks of a Holy Week liturgist is preparing for new oils. Yesterday, I removed the vessels from the ambry, and set aside the 2009 oils. A parishioner cleans the vessels each year and prepares them to receive what will be blessed today at the Chrism Mass here in northeast Iowa.

I took some images of our smudgy vessels, but haven’t been able to download due to technical problems. Twelve months of baptisms, confirmations, and anointings sure take their toll on crystal vessels. The chrism container seemed especially in need of wiping.

As for last year’s oil, we soak it in the wood used for the Easter fire. A noble end.

I’ve joined some parishes and have found years of old oils in the back shelves of sacristies. I realize the aversion–I share it–to discarding such material. I can’t believe the rear of vestment cabinets is a suitable resting place for “OC 1997.”

By the way, the Easter fire is also a final resting place for the yucky incense that never gets used. How do you handle such things at your parish?

One innovation I’ve thought about but never tried is to burn metal salts in the Easter fire to give a hint of color. Depending on the chemical compound, you can safely add any color of the rainbow.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Oils of Holy Week

  1. Liam says:

    Do you know what your diocese uses for balsalm formulations for the Holy Chrism? The eastern Churches have a rich formulation of 57 traditional ingredients (provoking Americans who learn of this tradition to make jokes about Heinz):


  2. Tony says:

    I had suggested to our previous pastor to get a floating wick, and disposing the holy oils by buring them in an empty sanctuary candle insert.

    Now *that* is a noble end. :)

  3. This year, because of our many baptisms and the Franciscan friars who make liberal use of the oils, we actually had to request a “refill” on the Oil of Catechumens. A sure sign of life in the community.

  4. smf says:

    I have wondered what happens to the leftovers myself. My home parish seems to alway be nearly out of one oil, have about half a jar of the other, and most of a jar of the last, though I don’t keep track of which one is which.

    At the Easter Vigil at St. Benedict Cathedral, the parishe’s Boy Scouts were in charge of setting up the fire lay and it was lit with flint and steal. Bishop Gettelfinger, whatever his faults may be, is a great and generous supporter of Scouts, and this was certainly a place of honor he gave them.

  5. Liam says:

    I suspect that the Oil of Catechumens is least used, the Oil of the Sick most used, and the Holy Chrism in between.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    What happens to last year’s Easter candle? Our parish’s candle still looked almost as good as new.

    What do those things cost: $150? $200?
    It seems a shame if they are simply tossed.

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