Portland, Maine, Mar 31, 2020 / 16:00 pm
With public Masses cancelled across the United States, ahead of Palm Sunday this weekend, some Maine Catholics are being encouraged to adopt a substitute devotional practice: pine branches.
Traditionally, Catholics receive blessed palm branches during Mass on Palm Sunday, this year celebrated on 5 April, to mark Christ’s arrival into Jerusalem and the start of Holy Week. That will not happen this year, due to the coronavirus outbreak and the nationwide suspension of public Masses.
“Unfortunately, we won’t be blessing any palms in this year’s celebration because we won’t be able to process with them, nor can we distribute them so that you can place blessed palms in your home after Mass,” said Fr. Louis Phillips of the Diocese of Portland (ME) said.
Instead, he has suggested to his parishioners at his three parishes to go outside--in a socially-distant manner--and clip a small pine branch to place behind a crucifix.
Phillips dubbed the idea “Pine Sunday,” and he is encouraging it among Catholics at St. Anne Parish in Gorham, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Westbrook, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Windham.
He told CNA that the idea of people came from a conversation he had with friends living in Florida. He realized that they would be able to grab a palm--albeit a non-blessed palm--from one of the naturally growing palm trees, and place it in their homes.
“I thought, ‘Oh, too bad we don’t have any palm trees in Maine,’” said Phillips. “Then I got to thinking. I was looking outside, and thinking ‘but we do have plenty of pine trees.’”
Maine’s official state nickname is “The Pine Tree State” and the trees are ubiquitous throughout the region.