Last Spring I had a conversation with the Director of Religious Education of our Parish, Abram Muenzberg. He asked if there was any way I could make Chrism scented soap. I would like to say I came up with the idea myself, but alas, I must give credit where it is due. I was not sure if I could come close to formulating that wonderful scent since the exact formulations are somewhat secret. The basis must be olive oil and balsam. I remember when each one of my children was baptized. I could not get enough of that wonderfully sweet, earthy, intoxicating scent. I even contemplated not bathing them for a while, but that idea was quickly forgotten as the smell of sour milk set in.
It has been a while since I had the pleasure of sniffing my baby’s newly anointed skin so I asked if I could smell the Sacred Chrism. Try as I might I felt like I could not figure its different components.
The parish offered seats for my whole family at the Sacred Chrism Mass held in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe that April. I figured I might have a better chance of getting close to the formulation if I could smell the Chrism shortly after it was mixed. I had never been to a Chrism mass before. It was an awesome experience rich in tradition that I was thankful to participate in especially since our oldest was to be confirmed later that spring.
Three silver urns containing olive oil were presented to Archbishop Michael Sheehan who imparted a special blessing for each one; Oil of the Infirm, Oil of the Catechumens, and Scared Chrism. I snapped this photo as they brought forth the Sacred Chrism.
When the Archbishop blessed the Sacred Chrism he breathed over the vessel of oil, a gesture symbolizing both the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate the oil, and the life-giving, sanctifying nature of Confirmation and Holy Orders. The mass concluded and the oils were distributed. There were representatives from all over the archdiocese there to take the oils back to their respective churches to be used in baptisms, confirmations, ordinations of clergy, at the bedside of the sick and dying, and blessings of churches and sacred vessels. The Archbishop announced that dinner would follow in the gym of the school. In typical fashion, my family made a mad dash to line up for dinner. They were serving BBQ sandwiches, coleslaw, tons of desserts, and much more I am sure I have left out. I was standing in line chatting with everyone else thinking how wonderful the mass was and how great the food smelled and I realized I forgot to ask our Deacon if I could smell the Sacred Chrism up close. Woops! I guess I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot about that important task I had set out to accomplish.
May came quickly and our oldest son was confirmed. After the mass I quickly ran up to him, hugged him, yanked his head down and smelled his forehead.
I am sure he rolled his eyes and just thought mom is being weird again. I think at that point I had enough to go on to begin formulating my own rendition of the Chrism. I made 5 different formulations and let them mingle for a few weeks. I put a few drops on some test strips with corresponding numbers and made family, neighbors, and just about everyone who was willing to take a whiff give me their opinion. Everyone settled on the same test strip #3. So #3 became the official formulation for our Chrism Gentle Face & Shower Soap.
I proceeded to make the first batch of Chrism that week and impatiently waited and waited for the next 4 weeks before it was ready to use. The bar itself has a subtle smell, but when you use it to wash your hands or shower with the aroma of Chrism is released. It instantly became my new favorite. It lingers on your skin nicely without overpowering your senses.
Anointing with Sacred Chrism only happens twice in a person’s life for most people. The first time is at Baptism where a person is anointed with the Sacred Chrism, just like Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King. The second time is at the sacrament of Confirmation when the bishop says, ‘Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ and anoints them on the forehead. This anointing confers the Holy Spirit upon a person. The gifts of the Holy Spirit give a person the strengthening one needs to live a life of discipleship. Those who are called to the priesthood are anointed a third time during the Rite of Ordination to the priesthood.
This soap can be a reminder of those Sacraments. It is a great gift to mark those special occasions or anniversaries. Our family celebrates our Baptismal days in addition to birthdays. It is a fitting reminder of Baptism and a fun gift to give.
I like to think of it as a reminder of God’s mercy, it is perfume for my soul.
May this little labor of love bring you great joy.
“Consecrated oil is always a sign of God’s mercy. So the meaning of priestly anointing always include the mission to bring God’s mercy to those we serve. In the lamp of our lives, the oil of mercy should never run dry.”
— Pope Benedict XVI