Today marks the beginning of Lent. I was a good girl and went to church during lunch to get my ashes. It brought back memories of years gone by, including my early years in Catholic school.
Waiting in line with your classmates to get your ashes, hands perfectly clasped together. Slowly making it towards the priest, one step after another. And then it is your turn. You panic as you realize you aren’t sure what you are supposed to say. The ashes are placed on your forehead in the sign of a cross. Tiny specks of ash gently float to your eyelashes. Then back to the pew for reverent prayers. Prayers that in reality are quick whispers to your friends.
“Psst, is mine big? Wow, look at yours! Mine goes all the way up to my hair! Oh look at Maria’s – it fell on to her cheek! Shhh shhhh, Sister is looking!”
In those days, no one seemed to question your ashes. But today, it is constant. “You have dirt on your forehead.” “Hey, wipe off your forehead.” Or even worse, someone goes to WIPE it off of your forehead. And then there are the ones who stare, seeing “dirt” on your forehead, letting you walk away without a quick word to protect you from embarrassment.
I wonder if I simply live in a more religiously diluted world, making Catholics and their ashes a rarity? Or are fewer Catholics actually going to get their ashes? Or maybe more people are going at night, as they work during the day and can’t get out to church until later.
All I know is the priest got me GOOD this year. And honestly, church by myself at lunch was incredibly moving. It’s too easy to get caught up in every day problems. I needed the quiet time today. And the memories of childhood years gone by.