Today is Ash Wednesday, which means we get to hear a reading from Matthew chapter 6 that warns about outward expressions of piety. I know that the reason why it is read today is that the chapter gives advice on fasting, which is important to hear before Lent. Still, I find it ironic that it gets read just moments before a priest marks your forehead so everyone knows that you’ve been to church.
Years ago, I wrote something similar and got a reply from a Lutheran (unsure of the synod, but by his tone, unlikely ELCA) who decided it was a good opportunity to school a Catholic on what the ashes really mean. I would have appreciated the dialogue, but the smugness bothered me and showed that he really didn’t get what I was writing about.
When I worked at Tork’s, my Muslim boss gave me a break to run off and get ashes. Scratch that, he insisted on it. I’ve had a lot of bosses who claim all sorts of flavors of Christianity, but the first one I had that gave me room to get ashes was a very devout Muslim.
I take this seriously enough that I know the ashes are not a crass marketing gimmick, but if it were, it would seem to work well. Priests have told me that attendance at masses on Ash Wednesday is only outdone by Easter and Christmas Eve. The funny part about it is that it is not a day of obligation.
Since it isn’t a day of obligation, many churches offer, for lack of a better word, “quickie” ashes. Our local Episcopal diocese is offering “Ashes To Go” at Ronstadt Center and Starbucks.
I am not a member of St. Pius X, but I make a point of heading over there to get ashes because it is only a few blocks from work. They have a “to go” offered in the parking lot, but you are obliged to write a sin or intention on a piece of paper and put it in a fire they have going.
Usually, it is a lay minister that gives the ashes. This time, I got them from Fr. Harry Ledwith. Ledwith gave a rosary at the service for Ruben Nuñez years ago that still sticks with me. He gave ashes to a group of four of us. He knew the other three but did not know me.
He made a point of asking my name. I anticipated him asking why he never sees me at mass, so I told him that I go to the Benedictine Monastery, but his church was near my work. He saw a woman approaching with a cane and said, “I am going to need to go to her.”
I saw he was busy so I walked back to the car.
“I hope we see more of you Ted,” he said as I opened my door.
Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.