Scripture tells us that people cut palm branches, waved them in the air, and laid them out on the ground before Jesus as He rode into the city of Jerusalem. Palms are mentioned in the Bible more than 30 times. From ancient history, palm branches have traditionally represented goodness and victory.
Today many people associate palm branches with a sense of paradise. For us Catholics, palm branches also symbolize Jesus’ royal lineage from King David and Jesus’ ultimate victory over death. The palm branches we use in our Palm Sunday services are often brought home as a witness of our faith and to symbolically praise and adore Jesus. Thankfully, these palms do not go to waste. They are burned and either returned to the ground to nourish the earth or repurposed by our Church to become the ashes used on Ash Wednesday the following Lent.
In Laudato Si` Pope Francis reminds us that everything is interconnected by integral ecology which includes dimensions of mind and heart, science, faith and the whole spiritual life of culture and nature. According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, palm trees, which are part of this integral ecology, are at risk with some species already endangered due to deforestation, wildfires, mining, and conversion to farmland. Finding sustainable sources for our religious use of palms can help maintain their natural habitat and also help the local economy through Fair Trade practices.