GREENVILLE – St. Mary’s Catholic School and church members prepared for the beginning of Lent, Feb. 28, “Fat Tuesday,” by burning blessed palms in in the school parking lot.
Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday,” is the last day of a season called “Carnival.” “Carnival” season is characterized by merrymaking, feasting and dancing. Ash Wednesday, the end of Carnival is followed immediately by the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time of fasting and penance in preparation for Easter.
On Fat Tuesday, parishioners bring last year’s blessed palms to throw into the fire and burn into ashes. The next day, Ash Wednesday, they are blessed at mass and rubbed onto people’s foreheads with a blessing to enter into the season of penance, which is Lent.
St. Mary’s Pastor Father John White said the palms were blessed last year, on Palm Sunday, to commemorate the welcoming of the Blessed Savior to Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy week, a few days before Jesus Christ’s death on Good Friday.
“We bless those palms and people bring them to their homes,” he said. “They sometimes make beautiful little designs of crowns and crosses that they place often around a cross or a holy picture. We bring them here and burn them and will have fresh palms in a few weeks, as we pass through Lent.”
Brothers Dylan and Ethan Jones are St. Mary’s elementary school students. They and some of their family members put some palms into the fire.
“Lent is about giving up things that are hard,” Ethan said. “In religion, we reviewed that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.”
In addition, the St. Mary’s students celebrated the fun of “Fat Tuesday” by eating King Cakes, burying the “Alleluia Banner” and singing, “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In”.
“We accept this as a time of prayer and penitence asking for God’s mercy on ourselves and on our world,” Father White said.
“Look upon us with kindness as we prepare the ashes which will mark the beginning of our Lenten journey,” he said in prayer. “And grant that we, who make the desert pilgrimage, might come to the font of rebirth with renewed passion for justice. May our alms serve Your people and bring us peace.”