Got Ashes?



My Ash Wednesdays of recent history have been…penitential. We’ve been mired in gastro-intestinal viruses, weather bad enough to close our local bridges and every variety of strangeness in the last few years. Well, today started out better because two kids went to school. And the third, well, he was helpless to do what I told him to since he had no illness.

Does that mean it was any less drama? No, of course not. Our parish offered four masses. The first one, at 8:30 am, was for the school children although any parishioner could attend. However, 8:30 is drop off time at Joey’s school, so that was a no-go.  The other masses were scheduled for 12:10 pm, 5:30 pm and 7:00 pm. Originally, I said, great 7 pm it is. Jeff will be home, it will be perfect. Until they announce that the late mass would be Spanish only, not bilingual as it has been in years past. And I like hearing the homilies in a language I understand. Especially on a day like Ash Wednesday.  5:30 was cutting it too close for Jeff (who ended up having a staff meeting today, because, well, of course he did!). So 12:10 it was. Not ideal, but it worked.

I left 30 minutes early because it takes 20 minutes to get to church. Only it took 15 and boy was I glad because, not only was school in rendering one parking lot not usable, but a film crew was on the street taking almost all the available street spots filming either for Revolution or some other show, and I asked, really? They had to film on this street where a historic Catholic church, a SHRINE, sits on ASH WEDNESDAY. I kept my cool and parked two blocks away and walked. With a three year old who insisted on wearing his Crocs.

And the church was PACKED. I’ve never seen this many people at a Sunday Mass and quite a few I had never seen before at all (I realize a lot of them are from other parishes who work closer to the church so it was more convenient to head over, like the two doctors in scrubs who snuck in in front of us during the opening hymn, but it was staggering.) I wish that many people packed the pews every Sunday.  I’ve also heard there are quite a few Protestants in my area who want ashes and their attendance on Ash Wednesday has increased in the last few years.

Will and I made it through unscathed. I was extremely proud of myself from abstaining from all food and drink until receiving the Body of Christ. And thus far I’ve had one slice of bread with jam and a few little pieces of cheese.

The first reading from mass today from Joel is one of my favorites, particularly how it opens:

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

Joel 2:12-13

The call is there. It is to me, what Lent embodies. Our priest likes to emphasize Lent as a joyous time in preparation for Easter. But for me, it is pure penitence. I can’t explain it, but although I know Easter is this joyous occasion and I am excited for the celebration of it, the weeks leading up, are about prayer, fasting and almsgiving and humility. So much humility. I guess it’s the fact that the weather during Lent where I live is typically pretty dark, grey and wet. And the idea of “giving something up.”   My Catholicity is on regular display via my language because I don’t quit drinking soda, I “give it up.” I don’t stop facebooking, I “give it up” (although quit is a better description in that particular case). When I told Jeff I wasn’t drinking soda he immediately said, “Wasn’t it just New Years? Is it Lent already??” (For the record, it was just New Years but no, it wasn’t Lent yet.)

So, what did I give up. Two things: music (only news radio and Catholic radio for me) and here’s one for you: sloth. I spend a lot of days just plain lazy, so to get up off my fat duff and do something will be good for me. Good for my soul. Good for God. And it will be hard. It will be difficult to realize that I need to stop dawdling and move laundry along or fold clothes while watching tv. Keeping busy. What’s that saying “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop?” Yeah, something like that.