After leaving church on Sunday, you may have come home with several long palm branches from the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
You may be asking yourself, “Well, what should I do with these?”
Whatever you do, don’t throw them away!
According to the Code of Canon Law, blessed items are not to be discarded in a trash can, but treated with respect (cf. #1171). At Mass these palm branches were set apart by a blessing from the priest and made into a “sacramental,” an object that is meant to draw us closer to the celebration of the seven sacraments. Throwing them in the trash ignores their sacred purpose and treats them like any other object we no longer need.
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The obvious question then becomes, “So if I can’t throw them away, what am I to do with all these branches?”
Over the years many people have used palm branches to decorate their homes. It could be as simple as tucking them behind a religious painting or crucifix, or as complex as a making them into a palm rose. Lacy at CatholicIcing.com has some excellent ideas on what you can do with your old palm branches, and she provides step-by-step instructions anyone can follow.
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The benefit of using them as decorative pieces in your home is that the palm branches will be a constant reminder of Palm Sunday and bring to mind the Passion narrative that was read at Mass. This is a perfect way to stay connected to Holy Week throughout the year and honor Christ as the Messiah who came to save us from sin and death.
Burn or bury
Most sacramentals, like palm branches for example, can be burned or buried in order to properly dispose of them. This type of disposal honors their sacred purpose and returns them to the earth in a dignified way. Anyone can do this, but if you don’t have the ability to burn or bury them, simply drop off your palm branches at the parish office.
Often priests will encourage the faithful to return palm branches to the church so that he can burn the branches and make ashes for Ash Wednesday. This way the liturgical year remains connected and nothing goes to waste.