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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 May 17, 2021

Meditate well on this: Seek God above all things. It is righ...

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May 17

 Meditate well on this:
Seek God above all things.
It is right for you to seek God before and above everything else,
because the majesty of God wishes you to receive what you ask for.
This will also make you more ready to serve God and
will enable you to love Him more perfectly.

St. Paschal Baylon


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Paschal Baylon

He bravely defended the doctrine of the Eucharistic Presence...

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St. Paschal Baylon

Paschal was born in Terra Hermosa, Spain on Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 1540 the son of Martin Baylon and Isabel Jubera, pious day laborers. The feast of Pentecost in Spain being called “Pasch of the Holy Ghost,” the child was named Paschal.

From age seven to twenty-four he tended sheep, and early on showed signs of a great passion for the Holy Eucharist. While out at pasture, he continuously contemplated from the book of nature, and was ever attentive to the sound of bells announcing the elevation at Mass.

His employer so esteemed Pachal’s virtues, that he offered to adopt him, which offer the youth gratefully declined, preferring to remain poor that he might better follow his chosen path to God.

At around age eighteen he applied to the Franciscan Friars Minors who, under St. Peter of Alcantara, then living, were undergoing a salutary reform. At first the friars put Paschal off, but when a few years later he was finally accepted, they soon realized what a treasure of virtue they had taken in. Though little educated, through his prayer life Paschal had reached a high degree of spiritual wisdom, which astounded his peers.

Again, his great spiritual characteristic was his devotion to the Holy Eucharist before which he spent hours on his knees, his hands clasped high in front of his face, at times rapt in ecstasy.

Once, when Paschal was sent on a mission through France, which was then undergoing fierce religious convulsions due to Calvinists and Huguenots, he bravely defended the doctrine of the Eucharistic Presence against a Calvinist preacher, barely escaping with his life afterwards.

Paschal died at fifty-two years of age on May 17, 1592 with the Holy Name of Jesus on his lips, just as the Host was being elevated after the Consecration during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

His body was exposed for three days as multitudes gathered to venerate him and witnessed many miracles which God deigned to perform to confirm the sanctity of His servant. Paschal Baylon was canonized in 1690.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Cathe...

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The Rosary & True Beauty

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life.

Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty. So much so, that she was known to those in Rome where she made her home as “Catherine the Beautiful.” Sadly, Catherine’s beauty went only skin deep, and she led a very sinful life.

One afternoon, strolling the streets of Rome, Catherine heard the voice of St. Dominic. This was the early 13th century and it was not unusual to cross paths with this great man of God.

On this particular day, he was preaching on the devotion to the Mother of God and the importance of praying her most holy Rosary. Caught up in the moment, Catherine had her name inscribed in the book of the confraternity and began to recite the Rosary. Though praying the Rosary gave her a sense of calmness she had not known before, Catherine did not abandon her sinful ways.

One evening, a youth, apparently a nobleman, came to her house. Catherine invited the handsome young man to stay to dine with her. When they were at supper, she saw drops of blood falling from his hands while he was breaking a piece of bread. Moments later, she observed, much to her discomfort, that all the food he took was tinged with blood.

Gathering up some courage to appease her curiosity, she asked him what that blood meant. With a firm but gentle look in his eyes, the youth replied that a Christian should take no food that was not tinged with the blood of Jesus Christ and sweetly seasoned with the memory of His passion.

Amazed at this reply, Catherine asked him who he was. "Soon," he answered, "I will show you." The rest of their meal passed uneventfully, yet always the drops of red catching Catherine’s eye, causing her to wonder about this man she supped with.

After dinner, when they had withdrawn into another room, the appearance of the youth changed. To Catherine’s stunned gaze, he showed himself crowned with thorns, his flesh torn and bleeding.

With the same firm but gentle gaze he said to her: “Do you wish to know who I am? Do you not know me? I am your Redeemer. Catherine, when will you cease to offend me? See how much I have suffered for you. You have grieved me enough, change your life."

Catherine began to weep bitterly, and Jesus, encouraging her, said: "Now begin to love me as much as you have offended me; and know that you have received this grace from me, on account of the Rosary you have been accustomed to recite in honor of my mother." And then he disappeared.

Catherine went in the morning to make her confession to St. Dominic, whose preaching on the Rosary had brought so marvelous a grace into her life. Giving to the poor all she possessed, from that day forward Catherine led so holy and joyful a life that she attained to great perfection.

It could now be said of her among the inhabitants of Rome that Catherine was indeed beautiful, but her beauty was no longer skin deep; her loveliness radiated from the depths of her soul.

The Most Holy Virgin often appeared to her; and Jesus himself revealed to St. Dominic, that this penitent had become very dear to him.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty.

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