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 | Katie Camario

Sharing in Love and Suffering Through Christ

February 22, 2023 | As she began her Lenten journey, Betsy Marrero went to church and returned palm crosses that she had been cherishing for months.

The palms were then burned to make ashes that will be distributed on Ash Wednesday to fellow parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Clearwater.

“The ashes are a reminder of our mortality, and a sign that we are to die to self, (our selfish desires) in order to live more fully for Christ,” said Deacon Rick Wells, Chancellor for Canonical Affairs of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

St. Catherine of Siena and other churches invite parishioners to bring in their palms from Palm Sunday to be burned and formed into a powder-like substance for Ash Wednesday services.  Since the palms are blessed, they are known as sacramentals, meaning objects serving as sacred signs of the sacraments. Because they have been blessed, they are to be treated with dignity and not simply discarded, as you would treat an ordinary palm branch.

Marrero has a tradition of taking the palms she receives on Palm Sunday and sharing them with her family in a special way.

“I make little crosses for everyone in my family including my husband and my two sons, so we can put them into the car or put them in each of our doors to remind us of Jesus’s journey,” she said.

This Lent, Marrero will have a heavy cross to carry, but she is choosing to unite her suffering with Christ. Just a few days ago, Marrero and the rest of her family, said goodbye to her oldest son, Ian, who left for U.S. Marine bootcamp.

“It’s a big deal, I'm giving my son up for Lent,” she said. “For me, there is no crown without suffering because we must all die to self for the glory of God. It's like walking with Jesus through His journey and suffering with Him through the trials of our life,” she said.

For Marrero, being able to participate in their burning of the palms which will then be used as ashes for her and for others is comforting during this time.

 “It’s beautiful to contribute them. It’s an act of love and charity to the community. We all share one love, one suffering one cross,” she said.