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The Old Art of Palm Weaving

Every year my mother would try to remember how to weave her palm from Palm Sunday.  It was something she had learned when she was young.  I remember the braided palms hanging behind pictures in the house and feeling a sense of comfort knowing that they were blessed palms.  They weren’t decorations, they are a sacramental.  A sacramental is something that is blessed and lead us to the sacraments of the Church.  Also, the palms remind us of the suffering of Christ.

Palm Sunday is the day that Jesus came into Jerusalem and was treated as a king and prophet but a week later he would be crucified.  This is the beginning of his Passion or suffering that he endured for us.

Since they are blessed, you can’t throw them away.  To dispose properly of the blessed palms, either burn them and dispose of the ashes in your lawn or garden or bury them in a respectful manner.  Also, you can bring them to the Catholic Church and they will burn them to make ashes for Ash Wednesday.

This link has some great resources on Palm Weaving.  The link on the bottom for the “Lost Art of Palm Weaving” is an excellent resource.  The nun did a lot of research on palm weaving and created a book on the subject before the Art was lost forever.  https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1035

 

Video credits: Arlington Catholic Herald

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Lent is More Than Fish Sticks

When you think of Lent, most people think of fish sandwiches or fish sticks.  What is Lent anyway?  We are preparing for Easter, and not just for the candy or bunnies.  We are preparing for Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection.  This is the most important religious time of the year.

Lent starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter.  After Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was killed, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before He was crucified.  He fasted for those 40 days.  Satan confronted and tempted Jesus and tried to prevent Him from being crucified because He didn’t want Jesus to succeed in His sacrifice for our salvation.  We as Christians go symbolically into the desert with Jesus for those 40 days (estimated) and try to better our relationship with Jesus.  This is a time to purify our religious lives.

During this time, we do different devotions to help us.  One thing we do is fast.  Fasting is only eating the equivalent of one meal in a day.  Abstaining from meat is also done.  All meat is refrained from except fish.  (This is where the fish sticks come in.)  Fish is the symbol of Jesus sometimes.  These are done on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays in between.  These are sacrifices we do for Jesus in reparation for our sins.  We also usually give up something during Lent as a sacrifice such as sweets, chocolate, smoking or something.

On Good Friday, we have Mass to remind us of Jesus’ Passion or His crucifixion and suffering.  This is a very important day and the time of 3:00pm is also very important because that’s when Jesus died.  This Mass is very emotionally moving because we read the Scripture of Jesus’ suffering.  I cry every time thinking of His pain because of my sins but it also makes me want to be a better person for Jesus.

The evening before Easter, we have a very beautiful Mass called the Easter Vigil.  We light candles and read many Scriptures of the Apostles waiting for Jesus to rise from the dead.  This is the night usually when people who are new converts come into the Church after going to the RCIA classes.  They receive the sacraments they need to come into the fullness of the Faith.

During Lent, Catholics can strengthen their faith by praying the rosary, praying the stations of the cross, reading scripture or other religious devotions daily.  There are also more opportunities for us to go to Confession/Reconciliation to repent and leave sin behind.

If a person takes Lent seriously, this can be a life changing experience.  You might end up with a closer relationship with Jesus after those 40 days in the desert.  Satan tempts us into thinking we can’t change but if we persevere, we can resist that temptation and change our lives for the better.  It may sound like it’s not much fun but you can make it fun and an interesting experience if you try different things and learn more about Jesus.

So when you see all of those advertisements for fish sandwiches at fast food restaurants on TV, remember that Lent is more than fish sticks.  It’s about the love Jesus has for us that He suffered for 40 days and then suffered and died for us so that we could have a repaired relationship with God after it was broken by Adam and Eve.

 

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What are the Stations of the Cross?

The Stations of the Cross or Way of the Cross are a devotion that takes you through each part of the Passion (suffering and crucifixion) of Jesus.  This devotion typically has 14 stations although some add his resurrection to the end for a 15th station.  This devotion helps us to understand and “walk” with Jesus during his Passion and Crucifixion.  Most often, there are pictures, sculptures or statues along the walls of the Catholic Church depicting each station.  Some are very beautifully ornate.  These are not worshipped but used as a reminder of what Jesus went through for us.  These stations are all Bible based.  Typically the Stations of the Cross is done during Lent but can be done daily or weekly.  This is not done to re-crucify Jesus but to understand and devote oneself to the love of Jesus for what he did nor us.  Try this devotion this Lent and see if you don’t have a new appreciation for Jesus’ suffering for you.

  1. Jesus is condemned to death
  2. Jesus takes up his cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time
  4. Jesus meets his mother
  5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls a second time
  8. Jesus comforts the women
  9. Jesus falls a third time
  10. Jesus is stripped
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
  14. Jesus is buried

A good webpage to help you pray the Stations of the Cross is http://www.ourcatholicfaith.org/stations/menu.html    You can go through each station with a click of the mouse.

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What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent (a preparation for Easter), 46 days before Easter.  It is celebrated by going to Mass and receiving ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross to remind us that “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).  The ashes are burned blessed palms and are blessed.  The palms are from the previous Palm Sunday.  It is also a day of fasting and abstaining.  Fasting means that you only eat the equivalent of one meal for the whole day.  Abstaining means that you don’t eat meat.  These are done to sacrifice for what Jesus endured on Good Friday for us.

The ashes are to remind us of our death that we don’t know when it will come and to repent of our sins now so that we are prepared for it.  The way to prepare for is to follow God’s rules and ways.  “Ashes are a plea to God for mercy and compassion, pardon and forgiveness.” (http://thecatholicspirit.com/holy-days/lent/why-do-we-receive-ashes-on-ash-wednesday-2/)  The most important meaning of the ashes is our promise to reform our lives and to avoid sins and the temptations of sin.

This year (2017), Ash Wednesday is on March 1st.  If a non-Catholic visits the Catholic Church for this Mass, they are invited to go forward and receive the ashes on their forehead, if they wish.  The fun part is if you have a priest with a large thumb, you will get a very large cross on your forehead!

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Photo credit: Parish of the Holy Eucharist