As a pile of blessed palm leaves went up in flames, a collective “whoa” broke out among a group of around 100 St. Gregory Cathedral School students on Tuesday.

When it was clear that he had their attention, the Very Rev. Hank Lanik, rector at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and president of Tyler Catholic Schools, explained to the students what they were witnessing.

Since last Palm Sunday, many of the students may have seen their parents keep and place blessed palm leaves around their homes, he said. 

Because the leaves were blessed, they cannot be thrown away and are often burned to create ashes ahead of Ash Wednesday. 

“Kids understand visuals,” Lanik said on Tuesday. “(It’s important) for them to see the fact that what they’re going to get on their forehead tomorrow is really a blessed palm that their parents would have gotten the year before and begin to connect liturgically all the things that happen.”

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter.

“Ash Wednesday is the day we remember the beginning of Lent and we remember our own mortality and we repent and turn to the Gospel,” Lanik said. “From dust we come and from dust we return.”

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