Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

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Palm Sunday Customs

The following is an excerpt from the Palm Sunday article found on the Fisheaters Web site:

“When Mass is finished, we take the palms home and hang them over crucifixes or holy pictures (I don’t know how universal this is, but an Italian and French custom is to break off a piece of the palm and, while praying to St. Barbara for relief, burn it in times of great storms or natural disasters). Another custom is to shape the palm into Crosses before hanging them (see below). The people of Italy and Mexico shape palms into extremely elaborate and beautiful figures. Also, men in some places will wear a piece of it in their hats or pin it to their lapels, and a piece should also be placed with one’s sick call set.

Some of these same palm branches are saved and burned the next year to make the ashes for the next Ash Wednesday — the palms, which symbolize triumph, and the ashes, which symbolize death and penitence, forming a great symbolic connection between suffering and victory. The next year, when we get new palms, the old palms are burned and their ashes buried.

Now, this day has in the past sometimes been called “Fig Sunday” because just after Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, He cursed the fig tree:

Mark 11:12-14 And the next day when they came out from Bethania, he was hungry. And when he had seen afar off a fig tree having leaves, he came if perhaps he might find any thing on it. And when he was come to it, he found nothing but leaves. For it was not the time for figs. And answering he said to it: May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. (also Matthew 21:18-19)

This cursing is undoubtedly a reference to what would happen to those of Israel who rejected the Messias, as revealed in this parable:

Luke 13:6-9 He spoke also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. And he said to the dresser of the vineyard: Behold, for these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it done therefore: why cumbereth it the ground? But he answering, said to him: Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig about it, and dung it. And if happily it bear fruit: but if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

Because of the cursing of the fig tree, the eating of figs is customary, and here are a few ways to do so:

Ways to eat Figs

At this time of year, the figs you can get will be dried. First, snip off any stems, then plump them up by letting them boil in water for 5 minutes or so, and letting them stand in the water until cool. Now, some options:
Figs
1) Slice deep crosses into the tops of 8 oz. of figs and spread open. Blend together 12 oz. of cream cheese and 4 oz. of Gorgonzola or blue cheese. Cut crosses into the figs and stuff with the cheese mixture. Top with a pecan half, chill, and serve cold.

2) Quarter figs. Cut thin slices of prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap each quarter in the prosciutto so it resembles a rose. Sprinkle with fresh lime juice and freshly ground black pepper.

3) Coarsely chop 1/2 cup pecans and mix with 8 oz. cream cheese. Slice figs in half lengthwise and spoon cheese mixture into each half.

4) Cut a slit into Calimyrna figs and stuff each with a pistachio. Slice a piece of Canadian-style bacon in half lengthwise. Top the bacon with a fresh leaf of basil, and wrap both around a fig. Place seam-side down on a jellyroll pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until bacon is brown.

The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday following Palm Sunday are another traditional time of cleaning. Just as the house is cleaned during Advent in preparation for Christmas, and just as Shrovetide is spent cleaning in preparation for Lent, these days are spent in preparation of the greatest Feast of the Church year: the Feast of Easter. By Wednesday night, the house should be spotless so that the days of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) can be devoted to Christ’s Passion.”

Devotions: Five Wounds

Detail from St Marie's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Our Lord’s Passion has inspired some of the greatest and most popular devotions known to the clergy, religious and lay faithful alike.  His Passion evokes some of the most basic emotions in us because suffering is part of the human condition.  Every person, eventually experiences suffering.

One of the great Passion devotions is the devotion of the Five Wounds.  These wounds are the five principle wounds that our Lord received during the crucifixion. They include the piercing of both hands and feet and the wound in the His side by St. Longinus’ lance.

When a altar is consecrated a number of the Rites anoint the altars in five place recalling the Passion and our Lord’s unbloody sacrifice that will take place upon that altar.  Many of the Eastern churches will have five domes upon them to illustrate architecturally the double symbolism of the five wounds and the four evangelist surrounding the Christ.

Devotion to the five wounds was encouraged by great mystics such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis of Assisi and more recently in the twentieth century by Venerable Sister Mary Martha Chambon of the Monastery of the Visitation Order in Chambéry, France.  Indirectly associated with this devotion is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary of the Holy Wounds.

Traditionally, there are also natural symbols that have been associated with the five wounds including:

  • Passion Flower stamens
  • Five points of the star of the cross-section of the apple
  • Sand Dollar

Liturgically, even as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Resurrection, the Five Wounds are revealed in the five grains of incense inserted into the Paschal candle.

The prayers of the Devotion to the Five Wounds include:

Prayer in Honor of the Five Wounds

Act of Contrition

As I kneel before Thee on the cross, most loving Saviour of my soul, my conscience reproaches me with having nailed Thee to that cross with these hands of mine, as often as I have fallen into mortal sin, wearying Thee with my base ingratitude. My God, my chief and perfect good, worthy of all my love, because Thou hast loaded me with blessings; I cannot now undo my misdeeds, as I would most willingly; but I loathe them, grieving sincerely for having offended Thee, Who art infinite goodness. And now, kneeling at Thy feet, I try, at least, to compassionate Thee, to give Thee thanks, to ask Thee pardon and contrition; wherefore with my heart and lips, I say:

To the Wound of the Left Foot

Holy wound of the left foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for the love whereby Thou laboured to overtake me on the way to ruin, and didst bleed amid the thorns and brambles of my sins. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity, in atonement for my sins, all of which I detest with sincere and bitter contrition.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Right Foot

Holy wound of the right foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for that love which pierced Thee with such torture and shedding of blood, in order to punish my wanderings and the guilty pleasures I have granted to my unbridled passions. I offer the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity, and I pray Thee for grace to weep over my sins with hot tears, and to enable me to persevere in the good which I have begun, without ever swerving again from my obedience to the divine commands.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Left Hand

Holy wound of the left hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for having in Thy love spared me the scourges and eternal damnation which my sins have merited. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of They most holy humanity: and I pray Thee to teach me how to turn to good account my span of life, and bring forth in it worthy fruits of penance, and to disarm the justice of God, which I have provoked.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Right Hand

Holy wound of the right hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for Thy graces lavished on me with such love, in spite of all my most perverse obstinacy. I offer to the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity; and I pray Thee to change my heart and its affections, and make me do all my actions in accordance with the will of God.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Sacred Side

Holy wound in the side of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the cruel insult Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee, my Jesus, for the love which suffered Thy side and Heart to be pierced, so that the last drops of blood and water might issue forth, making my redemption to overflow. I offer to the Eternal Father this outrage, and the love of Thy most holy humanity, that my soul may enter once for all into that most loving Heart, eager and ready to receive the greatest sinners, and never more depart.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Mothering Sunday and the Golden Rose

Rejoice, O Jerusalem!

Most of us know that tomorrow is Latarae Sunday, the fourth week of Lent.  It takes its name from the Introit which, quoting Isaiah 66:10, says Latarae, Jerusalem (Rejoice, O Jerusalem).  This is considered a joyful day in Lent because it observes the ancient practice of “handing over” the Apostles’ Creed to the catechumens, the last step before Baptism.[1]

Mothering Sunday

But what about Mothering Sunday?  Long before Anna Jarvis held her memorial and started her campaign for Mothers Day on May 12, 1907[2], long before President Woodrow Wilson nationalized Mothers Day in 1914, there was the Catholic Church.  In the early church, there was a deep sense of gratitude to the sponsoring church or Cathedral that birthed the Christian into a life of grace.  As a result, an ancient and indulgenced tradition developed of visiting ones mother church or cathedral on Latarae Sunday where one was baptized.[3]

As a natural outgrow, the children would return home to visit and spend the day with their parents.  As part of the celebration, “mother cakes” or simnel cakes were prepared.  As you might imagine, roses were used in the Churches because the flower matched the vestments of the day.  After Mass it became tradition to take the flowers home to your mother.[4]

“One tradition presents Mothering Sunday as an honor to St. Anne , the Blessed Mother’s mother, when children would ‘go a’mothering’ and bring flowers , gifts and sweets to their mother.”[5]

Rose Sunday

In Rome, Latarae Sunday is also known as Rose Sunday.  Not because of the rose vestment but because a golden rose received a papal blessing from the Pope and was then given to some notable person or institution to acknowledge and their above and beyond the call of duty service and loyalty.[6]

So, what did you get for your mother tomorrow – on our Mother’s Day?


[1] Alston, G.C. (1910). Laetare Sunday. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 12, 2010 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08737c.htm

[2] Kendall, Norman F. (1937), Mothers Day, A History of its Founding and its Founder

[3] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 336

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 337

[6] Rock, P.M.J. (1909). Golden Rose. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 12, 2010 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06629a.htm

Japanese Tempura

Yummy Tempura

“Some have suggested that the word tempura comes from the Latin Quatuor Tempora (“four times”), a name for the Ember Days, penitential days marking the changing of the seasons.  The tradition of abstaining from meat on those days each quarter was brought to Japan by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries.  When this European Christian tradition met a Japanese culinary tradition, a deep-fried seafood and vegetable dish was born: tempura!”[1]

So this Lent, eat some Tempura…a food born out of our Catholic Christian tradition!


[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 92

Traditions: Hot Cross Buns…the devil’s bane

This simple kids treat has been for centuries a European staple on Good Friday. [1] You remember Hot Cross Buns…that sweet, spiced dough with a sugar icing shaped in the form of a cross.  In Europe, these were commonly distributed to the poor and were even considered a blessing against sickness and house fires.”[2] Some areas distributed them on Fat Tuesday as a last “Hoorah” before Ash Wednesday.  Remember the simple modern verse:

Hot cross buns.  Hot cross buns.
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny, Hot cross buns.
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One ha’ penny, Two ha’ penny, Hot Cross Buns!
[3]

Another tradition states that the buns were made of the same dough used for altar hosts and marked, as is our tradition, with the cross.  Legend has it that they remained mold-resistant for twelve months:

Good Friday comes this month: the old woman runs With one-a-penny, two-a-penny, Hot cross buns.  Whose virtue is, if you believe what’s said, They’ll not grow like the common bread.

This legendary characteristic and association with the Church, “some believed this humble bun qualified as a charm against evil, and it was superstitiously hung in the house.”[4]


[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 459

[2] Ibid.

[3] I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 197.

[4] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 459