Received a few days ago by e-mail. I’ll tell you what I’ve done, but I’ll also confess I’ve never quite been able to match the smudge quality of the church supply sources:
This year our liturgy committee has decided to reinforce the origin and symbolism of the ashes used on Ash Wednesday by inviting parishioners to bring their palm fronds from Palm Sunday on the Sunday before Lent starts so we can burn them prior to Ash Wednesday. We think it’s a catechetical moment and a good way to communicate where the ashes come from, rather than “We just buy them from the church supply company.”
The problem is, some people have told me from their experience it’s very hard to burn old palm fronds. I’d be interested to know what experience your readers have in this regard, and any tips they might have to offer as to the logistics of the burning. I’d like to make sure we do it right the first time so we can make this a parish tradition.
I run the burned remnants of the palms through an old sifter. I’ve mixed the ashes with water in my early days, but I’ve gotten a fair result the past few years with a little bit of oil. Rachael Ray would say to eyeball it. Each year I test the smudge factor several times till it comes out close. I keep mixing alternate amounts of ash with oil till it gets close.
The best result I’ve had with the burning is to involve the Boy Scouts in the actual pyro stuff and to have the school kids process to an open area in the parking lot or field with their palm fronds. We have a brief prayer service (and no, we don’t sing “Ashes.”)