My mom is an extraordinary minister at her parish in the Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario. A while ago, while she was serving, tripped in front of the altar. My mom went down hard and the eucharistic chalice she was carrying was broken. She was embarrassed and upset that she had ruined such a sacred item. Her bruises healed, and the church got a new chalice. Everything was (eventually) fine. After she told us the story at Sunday Night Soup, we wondered what happened to the broken chalice.
Turns out, there is canon law for what to do in that situation. The new one needs to be consecrated by the bishop before it’s used at Mass. And the old one must be used for some other purpose or melted down. I have a few items that either were given to me (like the Holy Spirit charm on a silver chain), or the scapular that turned up in a box of costume jewelry. The scapular is certainly blessed. I’m not sure about the charm. But better safe than sorry, so they remain. When the grand old maple tree in my front yard finally gives up, perhaps I’ll put these items in the hole we dig for whatever new tree goes in.
Which brings us to the palms from Lent last spring.
On Ash Wednesday, the priest has a little dish of palm ash that he blesses with holy water and that’s what he uses to make the smudgy ash cross on the faithful’s foreheads. When we lived out in the Ottawa Valley, our teenytiny lilttle church invited parishioners to bring their not-quite year old palms to be burned to make the ashes. Presumably not all parishes do this, but ours did, and it felt very satisfying to return the palms to the church from whence it came. The palms are sacred, having been blessed at the church. We treat them with respect. We can’t just be heaving them out into the green bin on garbage day. When I didn’t make it to the palm re-gathering at our tiny rural church, we would burn them in our woodstove, and I made my gentleman associate put the cooled ashes in my garden (not just pitching them out into the meadow that comprised most of our yard.)
My current parish doesn’t re-collect the palms (to my knowledge), so I have a mason jar with a few year’s worth of palms folded and stuffed in there. Eventually (she says hopefully), I’ll add them to a fire in our firepit, and then add the ashes to my raspberry thicket or my tomato planters. I could just bury them directly, but there’s something more satisfying to me about burning them. Mayhap I’ll do it today, even. They’ll burn in the firepit today just as well as they will in June. And I’ll feel like I’ve closed the loop on the lifecycle of the palms. Beginning of Lent we burn them – End of Lent we get new ones. Lovely.
This Lent, may I consider the reverence that I give to objects compared to the objects that I should revere.