Palms to ashes

Students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Vermillion prepare for the coming of Ash Wednesday by participating in a prayer and blessing of the palms before burning them with Fr. Cole Kracke. The ashes will applied in the shape of a cross to the foreheads of the faithful at Ash Wednesday Masses. For more than 1,500 years, the Church has used ashes to mark the beginning of Lent. These ashes do not come from any ordinary fire. They are palms we used, last year, on Palm Sunday to remember Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. The ashes set the tone for Lent, which is marked by our more serious attitude about deepening our friendship with Jesus. Certain things are not done during Lent. The word "alleluia" is not used in prayer, whether spoken or sung. We stop doing some things we take for granted, like always eating when we want. We do this to remind ourselves that we need to rely on God more and more. As the palms dry and become brittle, we are reminded of how we might dry up when we stop following Christ, thinking only of ourselves and not other people.