Sunday, March 16, 2008

More beautiful palms

All in the palms

Many hands across the region will be busy for approach of Easter

A cross adorned with decorative palms was the handiwork of Francis Staab, a deacon at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. The News Journal/FRED COMEGYS

Crosses, hearts, braids and doves.

Some worshippers fold, bend and weave fresh, pliable palms to make blessed objects.

The folk art is a dying devotional, say people in parishes, yet a few souls will be busy creating the crafts on Palm Sunday and during Easter week.

Francis Staab, a deacon at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church near Prices Corner, braids decorative palms to adorn the cross carried into Mass at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday. (There are special times for Palm Sunday services.)

And on Easter, Delores "Dori" Logullo will make at least 25, maybe more, palm crosses for her mother, Dolly Senghaas, and friends.

"Everybody wants one because they are blessed," says Logullo, a Bear resident.

Making the crosses is a centuries-old folk art tradition brought to this country from Europe. When she was growing up, Logullo heard stories about how the crosses would heal the sick, ward off danger and keep away the devil.

The feast of Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Well-wishers honored him by placing cloaks and palms across his path.

In remembrance of this, Protestant and Catholic pastors often bless the palms before giving them for worshippers to wave as a welcome to Christ.

"This is a sacred time of renewed life," says Sister Barbara Ann Curran, principal of St. Peter Cathedral School in Wilmington.

After the service, there is always the question of what to do with the palms. Some congregations collect

and burn them and use the ashes for the next Ash Wednesday.

There's also an unofficial tradition of little boys using the fronds for sword fights, joked the Rev. Tom Flowers of St. Polycarp Catholic Church in Smyrna.

For centuries, the blessed palms have been made into crafts that people have kept with home crucifixes as a sign of their devotion and connection to Jesus' Easter resurrection. But knowledge of palm weaving is not as widely shared in Delaware parishes as in decades past, Curran says.

That's true too in Chicago. The Polish Museum of America is holding a workshop there today to keep the tradition alive.

It was started by Joann Ozog, museum coordinator, who's found an eager audience among all age groups.

"People tell me the hardest part in learning this is finding someone to teach you and getting started," Ozog says.

On Sunday in Delaware, Staab, 69, is teaching the craft to a high school group at St. Catherine of Siena. He learned it from his sister 60 years ago.

And for those who are interested in art he can teach them much more.

A gifted craftsman, Staab made the oak processional cross from 40 kinds of inlaid wood. He is also building new furniture for the altar and each Easter creates a 3-foot Pascal candle.

As for Logullo, she learned to make palm crosses from a Wilmington neighbor, James Pierce, who supplied the St. Anthony's community with the folk art for years.

Now Logullo is one of the few who know how to craft moistened, fresh palm fronds into shapes for friends and family.

"This is not something other people seem to be learning," Logullo says.

But she's happy to teach those who'd like to try.



Palm Weaving Tutorials

by Anthony Parente

One of the fascinating traditions that my family does for Palm Sunday is to create decorative designs using palms. I had an opportunity to sit down and learn how to create these beautifully decorated palms. I carefully wrote down each instruction and took pictures of the various steps so you too can learn how to make the same designs as my family. Don't worry if I could do it so can you.

There are five tutorials to choose from. Each contains step by step instructions and photos to help you visualize the steps. I included a level of difficulty ranging from 1-5, where 1 is Easy and 5 is Hard. Have fun & enjoy!

This tutorial consists of 6 steps. This pattern consists of 2 palms that are looped and weaved inside each other. When you are done you will have a flat braid similar to the one in the photo.
Difficulty: 3
Braid Palm
This tutorial consists of 6 steps. This pattern is often referred to as the pyramid, grape or basket palm. No matter what you call it you too can perform this pattern that consists of 4 palms in which you bend and weave to form the cone.
Difficulty: 2
Cone Palm
This tutorial consists of 9 steps. This pattern consists of 2 palms that are folded and looped to form a cross.
Difficulty: 1
Cross Palm
Crown of Thorns
This tutorial includes a drawing that illustrates how to create the crown of thorns.
Difficulty: 3
Crown of Thorns
The Rose Bud
This tutorial consists of 10 steps. With two palm pieces and a few bends and twists you will have created a beautiful rose bud like the one in the picture.
Difficulty: 1

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."