Thursday, March 10, 2011

What I Saw on Ash Wednesday

Christ Healing the Sick by Benjamin West

I am so fascinated by what takes place in Catholic churches on Ash Wednesday.  I wish I could figure it out.  Throngs and throngs of people show up to have the priest impose a dirt cross on their foreheads.  I was lucky enough to get to 2 Masses yesterday, one at my weekday and the other at my own parish.  I was interested to see some of the folks who normally come to the TLM on Sundays.  Just as always, they dressed in suits, the women wore veils and the men knelt on the floor in front of Father and received the Lord on the tongue.

Juxtaposition this with people who left their cell phones on, texted during the sermon, or had the audacity to miss the entire Mass, yet present themselves at the altar after the final blessing to beg for ashes.  And of course, they were not denied.  I thought our pastor took all of it in stride and never let on if any of this affected him or disturbed him.  He did not waste the opportunity to acknowledge that there were probably people present who hadn't been to Mass all year.  He did so gently and lovingly, as a mother might encourage her children to visit her more often.  As he imposed ashes on a line of people that seemed endless, I had a vision of Christ, surrounded by the masses who waited to be healed of their lameness, their blindness or their paralysis.

I prayed that they would be cured of the lameness that hobbles them and prevents them making the uphill climb toward Calvary.  I prayed that they would be cured of the blindness that prevents them from seeing how much the Lord loves them and longs for their return and how empty are the allurements of the world.  I prayed that those paralyzed by fear because of a life of sin would realize the infinite mercy of God and speed toward reconciliation with Him through the sacraments.  And most of all, I prayed for myself, that I would never lose sight of the fact that a scant few years ago, I, too, was crippled, in the dark, and paralyzed by pride and sin.

Wouldn't it be something if, after Mass ended on Ash Wednesday, the priest would head to the confessional box and invite people to free themselves of the burden of sin?  I wonder.


  1. I saw lots, too. And I didn't respond well. so-off to a running start for confession fodder.

  2. I'm glad they are there. That smudge of ash might penetrate their hearts.

  3. Beautiful reflection...we are all sinners and even presenting for ashes, we are acknowledging our nothingness...let us pray for our brothers and sisters that they will take it a step further into the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


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