Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Kansas City's Jesuit Parish
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Friday, Feb. 2nd 2018

Burning Palms and the Impermanence of All Things – February 2, 2018

This weekend at St. Francis Xavier we’re gathering blessed palms – palms that were distributed last Palm Sunday – so we can burn them at Children’s Liturgy of the Word next weekend.  Then the ashes will be used to mark our foreheads with the Sign of the Cross at the Masses on Ash Wednesday. 

I hardly remember last year’s Palm Sunday Mass.  My 93-year-old mother died about half-way through Lent last year and mostly I remember being very tired.  But I got through the end of Lent and Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter…and First Communion a few weeks later.  I was grateful when early May came and “the sacrament season” was over.  I spent Mother’s Day weekend back in Iowa at my childhood home with my brothers, cleaning out the house and preparing it for auction.

Catholics are “smells and bells” kind of people and we love our symbols and our stuff.  And palms and ashes are powerful symbols.

I like the Palm Sunday-Ash Wednesday connection.  I like the “circle of life” completeness of using last year’s symbol of triumph (“Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!”) to mark our foreheads with a symbol of our sinfulness (“Repent! And believe the Good News!”) and death (“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”).

My mother’s body was cremated and those ashes (the Church calls them cremated remains or “cremains”) are in a simple walnut box she ordered (years before she died!) from the Trappists at New Melleray Abbey in Iowa. Their website says, “Every human being is a treasure and each casket and urn is built to reflect the treasure it holds.” Each casket, urn and cross is blessed by a monk. My mother’s name is inscribed in their Memorial Book placed in their chapel.  And a tree seedling was planted in the monastic forest on the Abbey grounds as a way to honor her and to give back to the earth.

This March my brothers and I will bury the walnut box in the same grave where my father’s ashes rest.

The physicists tell us that energy is neither created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another. The Buddhists teach the impermanence of all things.  And St. Paul writes that, in the end, three things remain, faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13). 

I reflect on all these things and I lean into love – the love my mother had (has?) for her family and we for her.  And the love of God.

2 Comments on “Burning Palms and the Impermanence of All Things – February 2, 2018”

  1. Mary Danaher Says:

    A few minutes ago I had a conversation with a Jewish friend about the death of her sister. We talked about memories and the tree of life that will rise from her sister’s ashes mixed with earth and a seedling. Blessed memories are a sign of faith as we find hope and love in them. Remembering your mother, Mariann, and our beloved dead a we approach Ash Wednesday and contemplation of times here on earth and in the life to come.

  2. Kathy Itzin Says:

    Lovely article! Your mother was such a good woman, and so fitting that she returns to the good earth.
    And yes, her love continues: from her and from God, and it continues to support, encourage, and nurture the world she loved so much!

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Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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