This past Sunday, June 9 — Pentecost — we had our second annual “Shower of Rose Petals” in my parish at the conclusion of our 11am Solemn Mass.
This custom picks up on the rather ancient tradition at the Pantheon in Rome, about which I have written before, to rain down rose petals (through the oculus opening on the roof of that great church) at the conclusion of the Pentecost Mass there.
In the Middle Ages this was done at the conclusion of the pope’s preaching on Pentecost, to reinforce what he had just taught about the descent of the Holy Spirit and his sevenfold gifts. In some parts of Europe, Pentecost was also known as the Pasch of Roses.
The rose petals, of course, symbolize the tongues of fire in the form of which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Virgin Mary and the disciples gathered in the upper room. As I said on m parish Facebook page, this lovely custom creates memories for children and reminds us adults that the Holy Spirit has been given to us through our Baptism and Confirmation and that God looks upon us as his beloved sons and daughters.
This is a wonderful expression of the Catholic imagination and highlights the incarnational dimension of our worship. It is beautiful and child-like and brings joy.
Take a look at the photos and video I posted on Instagram (in one single post) or the photos and video (two separate posts) I put on our Facebook page for this year’s Shower of Rose Petals. St. John Cantius in Chicago has also observed this custom for a few years now at least. And I have seen more and more churches doing likewise.
In my parish we have an attic above the nave and can release the petals through the openings for the recessed lighting. I know of one local parish that rigged up a basket with a rope near the ceiling and released the petals that way. Surely with some creativity, almost anyone can re-create this custom in their church!
(See also Amy Welborn’s post about this, with links to additional photos/video.)