Last month, on Tuesday of Holy Week, Bishop Joe Vásquez blessed the oils that are used in the celebration of the Sacraments. There are three such oils: Oil of the Catechumens, Oil of the Sick, and the Sacred Chrism. The Oil of the Catechumens, as the name implies, is used in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in ceremonies preparing the catechumens (those to be baptized) for their baptism. The Oil of the Sick is used in the Anointing of the Sick, a wonderful prayer of the Church asking for healing physically, mentally and spiritually. This sacrament is celebrated communally each month here at St. Austin. And finally there is the Sacred Chrism, which is oil that has perfume in it. Interestingly, while the Oil of the Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick are “blessed,” the Sacred Chrism gets a more elevated designation in that it is “consecrated.” This oil is used in Baptism, in the celebration of Confirmation, and in Ordination. So of the three it has the most work to do.
We ceremoniously received our oils on Holy Thursday. These oils were then used in the Sacraments celebrated at the Easter Vigil, that is, Baptism and Confirmation. The old oils from last year are burned when new oils are received.
According to Canon Law, canon 847, ¶2 we have to receive the oils from our own Bishop. The canon states: “The pastor is to obtain the sacred oils from his own bishop and keep them carefully in a fitting manner.” Apparently I am not permitted to go to the Archdiocese of San Antonio and get the oils there, nor to the Diocese of San Angelo to get them if I happened to be passing by that way. Only oils from the local bishop are permitted. Perhaps this is to give the local bishop a greater sense of, and control over, who is celebrating sacraments in his territory.
This canon also states that the oils are to be kept “carefully in a fitting manner.” I presume that local custom prescribes what constitutes “a fitting manner.” For a long time the oils here were kept in a closet in the sacristy, along with chalices and patens, cruets and pitchers and other altar ware. It was a safe space, but not particularly “fitting.” But now I am pleased to announce that we have an actual ambry, which is a small closet or niche specifically designated for keeping the three sacramental oils. Our ambry is located in the Reconciliation Chapel but is still visible through the grate. You can easily see the cabinet in which the three oils are now kept in the left corner. Thanks to Miriam Mellon for urging us to acquire an ambry, to John Hoffman for suggesting the location, and to Frank Garcia and Kevin Barry for making it so. I think the ambry is a very nice addition to the furnishings of our church.