Palm Shortage in New Orleans

One of the most attended Masses of the liturgical year, Palm Sunday will look a little different this year in New Orleans, Louisiana. Because of the deep freeze that hit hard this January, palms that are typically plentiful in New Orleans are now in short supply.

Instead of the usual queen palms which were killed in the freeze, it has been recommended that parishes use sago palms, which are brown and much skinnier than what Catholics are used to seeing on Palm Sunday.

Because the Roman Missal doesn’t specify which type of branch is to be used during Palm Sunday services, some parishes are considering the use of other branches as well, such as juniper trees or ginger plants.

H/T: Clarion Herald

Palm Sunday and the light of Christ

The part of Rwanda I am currently in has a large population of Congolese immigrants. Several Rwandans have told me that their celebrations are quite different from the Rwandans’. They call the mass the “Congolese Mass,” which got me excited and prompted me to clarify if they meant the Congolese/Zaire Rite. Admittedly, my heart sank a little when I learned that the Congolese celebrate the Roman Rite, not Zaire Rite, in Kiswahili. The Congolese Mass is like the Hispanic Masses in the US, similarly celebrated by immigrants, they said. Nevertheless, I was told that the Congolese are more festive, love color, and dance a lot; Rwandans tend to be more subdued. Curious to experience a Congolese Mass for myself, I told a friend I’d go to one this morning. He looked a little dismayed. “It is Palm Sunday, so there will not be a lot of dancing because it is the passion,” he warned. I decided to go anyway.

The Mass began right outside the main entrance of the Church. It was a short procession into the Church. I couldn’t understand all of what was sung, but there were enough “Hosannas” that I could figure out where we were in the rite.Palms

Inside the Church, the Mass went on as usual. The Gospel was proclaimed as a dialogue between five people— the priest and four lectors. The congregation knelt at the appointed moment, then stood again.

Passion reading_Fotor

It was right then, at the completion of the Gospel, that things got interesting. One altar server took an altar candle away and into the sacristy!

Lone candle_Fotor

I couldn’t understand the homily, so I can only surmise that the removal of the candle was symbolic of Christ’s death and burial. Reducing the number of candles from two to one, right after the reading, seemed to say that Christ as “light of the world” is momentarily dimmed, but not completely extinguished.

I missed the exact moment the candle was returned to its place, but it was back by the Preparation of the Gifts—just in time to remind us that Christ is with us, now, in the Eucharistic liturgy! I was so struck by the movement of the candle that I found myself meditating on its meaning vis-a-vis the Gospel text and the context of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo throughout the rest of the liturgy. I now wonder if this is part of the larger Congolese community’s tradition or an innovation of this one. (If anyone else has seen this done before on Palm Sunday elsewhere, please let me know in the comments!)


The remainder of the liturgy proceeded in a familiar way. I was hoping to see some dancing, and finally did during the post-communion hymn. The choir and people waved their palms and clapped along as they sang.

What was your Palm Sunday experience?

A Palm Sunday Near You

Videos and service leaflets are beginning to appear across the Internet from last Sunday’s Palm Sunday Services.

At Notre Dame de Paris, the entrance rite begins with the bishop knocking at the Cathedral’s front doors with his crosier as the choir responds with acclamations from Psalm 23. After the third set of knocking, the great doors are opened, accompanied by a stunning improvisation played by Olivier Latry. The first Gospel reading is proclaimed as the deacon stands over the baptismal font – a very powerful use of symbol. A full service bulletin (in .pdf format) is available here.

At Trinity Wall Street (Episcopal) in New York City, the liturgy began at nearby St. Paul’s Chapel with the blessing of palms and processed down Broadway to Trinity Church. The reading of the Passion was chanted in a stunning improvisational style by members of The Choir of Trinity Wall Street.  A full service bulletin (in .pdf format) is available here.

Do you know of any other good examples of Palm Sunday liturgies out there? Did you do anything unique in your parish? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Cardinal Schönborn: “Fresh Spring Wind in the Church” with Pope Francis

“Through Pope Francis, Christ has sent us a fresh spring wind in the Church,” said Cardinal Christoph Schönborn at the Blessing of Palms in Vienna. One senses that “Christ is with us along the way.”

Cardinal Schönborn summarized his impressions of the first days of the new pope in Rome, saying that what so moved the people in St. Peter’s Square about Pope Francis is his “simplicity, humility, and straightforwardness.” He added, “Humility makes us free.”

Schönborn said that the pope’s freedom, sovereignty, and spontaneity comes from a deep source, from prayer. At table in St. Martha’s House, Pope Francis told the Viennese archbishop that he gets up at 4:30 every day in order to have two hours of “quiet time” for prayer.

Cardinal Schönborn concluded by saying, “In this spring-like atmosphere in the church, we may look full of joy at Christ, who shows us the way to life, beyond the Cross to Easter morning.”

Source: Katholische Presseagentur Österreich