Diocesan News

Only in Print: From Palms to Ashes, the Church’s Annual Cycle | February 22, 2020

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Father Peter Purpura place ashes at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn. Inset, palms handed out on Palm Sunday. (Photo: Ed Wilkinson)

By Allyson Escobar and Melissa Enaje

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — On Ash Wednesday, millions of Catholics around the world will wear a mark of ashes on their foreheads, gathered from the palms that are burned after Palm Sunday the previous year.

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Feb. 26, and almost 50 percent of U.S. Catholics will receive the ashes on that day, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The act signifies the beginning of a 40-day journey toward repentance and freedom during the liturgical season of Lent. But where do parishes get the ashes and what do they mean?

In the U.S., almost 18,000 Catholic parishes celebrate Palm Sunday by blessing and distributing palm branches to the faithful during Holy Week. That makes millions of palm leaves each year — and that doesn’t include all of the Protestant churches that observe the tradition…

The rest of this article can be found exclusively in the Feb. 22  printed version of The Tablet. You can buy it at church for $1, or you can receive future editions of the paper in your mailbox at a discounted rate by subscribing here. Thank you for supporting Catholic journalism.