Feb 7, 2008


Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. The kids were coughing up lungs and hacking like smokers so I kept them home from school. We went to distribution of the ashes at noon and Curly Girl was very conscientious of the ashes on her head. She wanted to pull her hair forward over her face and cover it up.

Father said something that I was able to pass along to the kids, because little ones have a hard time listening sometimes. The ashes, the smudge, the cross - All state that we believe in Jesus and that He is walking with us this Lenten season. I told her that to cover the ashes meant to deny Jesus. That and the fact that we were traveling in a pack of five plus a pregnant belly made it okay, I think.

It seems like I'm always the one to smudge up my cross first. This year was no exception. I inadvertently brushed the back of my hand over my forehead just an hour after leaving the church. RooBoo kept hers on even after her bath tonight! That doesn't say too much about how thorough her shower was, does it?

The actual purpose of this post wasn't to yak about our Ash Wednesday, but to share a portion of the Lenten Reflection I read last night in a booklet provided by the parish.

Daybreaks by John Shea.

Ash Wednesday: Now is the Time

Many Ash Wednesdays ago, my mother and I received ashes in the afternoon and headed directly to the mall to shop - real American religion. As we passed the permanent convention of teenagers gathered at the center of the mall, one of the saw our smudged foreheads and announced in a megaphone voice, "Hey! The Catholics are giving out ashes. Let's go."

I particularly liked this portion because of what seems the sincere reaction of the kids. Living in a predominately Mormon society, we got a few strange looks from shoppers as we stopped for bread. One lady asked me what that was, as she had seen some earlier in the day. I hope I explained well enough to plant a seed, though I doubt it.

There is something universal about Ash Wednesday. Although it is primarily a Catholic ritual, it appeals to many people. Even the unchurched may find themselves in line waiting to have someone's thumb blacken their forehead.

There are many reasons for this attraction, but I favor the explanation that ashes are a gentle reminder of our death and we welcome that gentle reminder. Although death is a constant companion, we do not have to think about it every day - but neither can we totally deny it. In the brief ritual of Ash Wednesday, we acknowledge our mortality in a way that does not debilitate us. Harsh reminders we push aside; gentle reminders we accept.

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