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Christ riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

— when Jesus began His journey towards the cross

“Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” (Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11)

Our Lord Jesus Christ had become somewhat of a celebrity among people who had heard of the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead, and they wanted to see Him and treat Him like a king. Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–9), when palm branches were placed in His path by an adoring crowd. The air throughout Jerusalem echoed with “Hosanna!”

Just four days later, He was arrested on Holy Thursday and crucified on Good Friday. Palm Sunday thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent.

 

Why “Palm” Sunday?

Palm Sunday ParadePalm branches have been used in Christianity as a sign of victory over the flesh and the world; hence especially associated with the memory of the martyrs. The palms are blessed on Palm Sunday and are used in the procession of the day, then taken home by the faithful and used as a sacramental. They were preserved in prominent places in the house, in the barns, and in the fields, and thrown into the fire during storms.

In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). Again at the end of the Bible, people from every nation raise palm branches to honor Jesus (Revelation 7:9).

In the Roman Catholic Church, palm fronds (or in colder climates some kind of substitutes) are blessed with an aspergillum outside the church building in an event called the "blessing of palms" if using palm leaves (or in cold climates in the narthex when Easter falls early in the year). A solemn procession also takes place, and often includes the entire congregation.

 

Palm Sunday Festivities

The vestments for the day are deep scarlet red, the color of blood, indicating the supreme redemptive sacrifice Christ was entering the city to fulfill: His Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

The principal ceremonies of the day are the benediction of the palms, the procession, the Mass, and during it the singing or reading of the Passion. In the five prayers which are prayed over the palms the priest asks God to bless the branches of palm or olive:

  • that they may be a protection to all places into which they may be brought;
  • that the right hand of God may expel all adversity, bless and protect all who dwell in them, who have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • makes reference to the dove bringing back the olive branch to Noah's ark and to the multitude greeting Our Lord;
  • say that the branches of palms signify victory over the prince of death and...
  • that the olive signifies the advent of spiritual unction through Christ.

The officiating clergyman sprinkles the palms with holy water, incenses them, and, after another prayer, distributes them. During the distribution the choir sings an appropriate hymn.

Then follows the procession, of the clergy and of the people, carrying the blessed palms, the choir in the meantime singing. All process out of the church, or, in inclement weather, around the inside of the church. On the return of the procession the choir leads a hymn, at the end of which Mass is celebrated, the principal feature of which is the singing or reading of the Passion according to St. Matthew, during which all hold the palms in their hands.

These ceremonies have remained principally intact since medieval times, when, following the Roman custom, a procession composed of the clergy and laity carrying palms moved from a chapel or shrine outside the town, where the palms were blessed, to the cathedral or main church. Our Lord was represented in the procession, either by the Blessed Sacrament or by a crucifix, adorned with flowers, carried by the celebrant of the Mass. Later, in the Middle Ages, a quaint custom arose of drawing a wooden statue of Christ sitting on a donkey (the whole image on wheels) in the center of the procession. These statues (Palm Donkey; Palmesel) are still seen in museums of many European cities.

The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, unlike the horse which is the animal of war.  A king would have ridden a horse when he was bent on war and ridden a donkey to symbolize his arrival in peace. Jesus' entry to Jerusalem would have thus symbolized his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king.

 

Don’t throw away those palms!

Palms made into small crossesThe palms are saved in many churches to be burned on Shrove Tuesday the following year to make ashes used in Ash Wednesday services. The Catholic Church considers the blessed palms to be sacramentals. Having been blessed by a priest (sacramental) they carry a certain spiritual significance and power. A sacramental is a material object, thing or action set apart or blessed to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments and so to excite pious thoughts and to increase devotion to God when used with devotion.

After celebrating Palm Sunday, parishioners return home with several palms and are often unsure how to properly display or otherwise hold onto them. Because these palms are sacramentals, they cannot be thrown away. They must either be burned or buried to be disposed of correctly.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for March 3, 2021

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than...

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March 3

 

Those who educate children well
are more to be honored
than they who produce them;
for the latter only gave them life,
the former give them the art of living well.


Aristotle

  
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Katharine Drexel

Catherine made her social debut in 1879 as a wealthy, popula...

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St. Katharine Drexel

Katharine Drexel was born Catherine Marie Drexel on November 26, 1858, the second daughter of Francis Anthony Drexel, a wealthy banker, and his wife, Hannah, who died very shortly after Catherine’s birth. Francis married again two years later, and he and his new wife, Emma, had another daughter when Catherine was five.

The three Drexel children were well educated and enjoyed many social and material privileges. They were privately educated at home by their tutors and would often tour parts of the United States and Europe with their parents. They were brought up to the practice of the virtues and assisted their parents every week when they opened their home to the care and aid of the poor.

Catherine made her social debut in 1879 as a wealthy, popular young heiress. However, her life took a profound turn when, after nursing Emma Drexel for three years during a terminal illness, she realized that her family’s fortune could not buy freedom from pain or death. She became a very active and staunch advocate for the black and native Americans after witnessing their plight during a family trip to the Western United States in 1884.

At the prompting of Pope Leo XIII, the young heiress became a missionary religious in 1891 and established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to work among the American Indians and Afro-Americans. Her decision to enter religion rocked Philadelphia social circles, one newspaper carrying the banner headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million."

Over the course of the next sixty years, Mother Katharine Drexel, as she became known, devoted herself and her fortune to propagating her missionary work. By the time of her death in 1955, at the age of ninety-six, she had established a system of Catholic schools for blacks in thirteen states, twenty-three rural schools, and fifty missions for Indians in sixteen states. Her most famous establishment was Xavier University for Blacks in New Orleans in 1915 – it was the first of its kind in the United States and faced great opposition from radical racists.

Mother Katharine Drexel was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000, the second native-born American ever to be declared a saint after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1774.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week....

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Payback

At Anna’s mother’s funeral a man came up to her and after offering his deepest sympathy, took the grieving daughter aside, “I must tell you a story about your good mother and something she did for me…”

He proceeded to recount how, many years before he was involved in an extra-marital affair. One day, when dining with the woman in a restaurant, Anna’s parents had come in and pretended they had not seen them.

But next day he picked up the phone to hear Anna’s mother inviting him over for a piece of pie.

“You know how good your mother’s pie was…But there was also a tone of urgent authority in her voice, so I went.”

After enjoying his piece of pie, Anna’s mother revealed that she had, indeed, seen him and his girl-friend the night before.

“Though I vehemently denied it, your mother would not relent...She proceeded to remind me of the time when I was out of work and she had cooked for my family day in and day out.”

“Now, I want payback,” she demanded.

“I reached for my wallet, but she said,”

“Not that way.”

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week. She instructed him to say the Hail Mary and Our Father assigned to each bead while thinking of something good about his wife, his children and their family life.

“If at the end of this week you still think this woman is better for you, just mail me back the Rosary, and I will never say a word about this again.”

At this point, the man telling the story reached into his pocket. Pulling out a worn Rosary, he said,

“This is the Rosary your mother gave me all those years ago. My wife and I have said it together every day since.”

 Based on a story from 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week. She instructed him to say the Hail Mary

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