About those ashes…



On Ash Wednesday, after having just recovered from a nasty stomach bug, we all rose early, dressed, ate (in the case of the little people), and headed out the door to get to 7:30AM Mass.


My oldest had declared that he wanted to get his ashes before school both because he liked knowing they were there and he liked when people asked him about them. I love that boy’s mind and heart.


Anyway, the whole point of this is not in any way how impressive or devout any of that is– not at all. Really, this was all just backstory so you knew why I spent the entire day Wednesday with ashes on my forehead.




They don’t bother me. Really, I don’t think too much about it, since I can’t see my own head.


But, this year, I found that I was really focused on the responses of others. It was so fascinating to me to listen to the ways others reacted to seeing that smudged cross on my forehead.




To be fair, most said nothing and showed no reaction. And that’s fine. But there were a few notable ones…


The security guard (we have those all the time now– Sandy Hook changed everything for us) letting me into the kids’ school held the door open wide and gave me a crooked grin. “Nice ash,” he murmured as I passed by, which was both punny and also a nod to the fact that he, too, had ashes on his head. We shared a smile.


Seeing a sub in my daughter’s class, I offered to stay and handle book exchange, even though Wednesday is not my usual volunteer day. One of the boys in the class saw me across the room, “Hey, Mrs. S.– why is there a star on your head?” “It’s not actually a star, Max. It’s a cross.” He got closer. “Oh, yeah! I see it now. It looked like a star from over there. Like you were a superhero or something.” He grinned, “Hey, maybe that’s how Jesus Christ Superstar came about!”


Leaving the school, I stopped in the office to hand in my visitor’s pass. (Again, this is how it is, now.) Another mother crossed my path and glanced at my head. “Oh, yeah,” she muttered half to herself, “I need to find a time to do THAT today, too…” {deep sigh}



It was all so fascinating to me.


There’s connection. Community. That recognition of a common tie with someone emblazoned right across their face.


There are questions. Interest. Curiosity. Discovery.


And then… then there’s inconvenience.


And it IS inconvenient, isn’t it? It’s inconvenient to be asked to rise early or fight rush hour traffic to get to a church. It’s inconvenient to avoid eating meat. It’s inconvenient to fast. It’s inconvenient to be reminded of all your faith “demands” by the passing head of a woman in the school.


It sounds bad to say that. That following our faith would be “inconvenient.”


But it is.


It should be.


The problem isn’t really finding it inconvenient. If anything, I think that’s good. I think that’s kind of the point.


The problem?


Is when we resent the inconvenience.



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2 comments to About those ashes…

  • Ah, yes. The inconvenience. “Too many rules,” is a common objection to our faith practices.

    The rules keep me grounded. They let me know that I can’t interpret things any willy nilly way I want to. They remind me that all this? Is bigger than me. As it should be.

    • I agree. I don’t want it to be all about what *I* think. I also really don’t want it to be about what Pastor Bob or whomever thinks. The sheer universality of the rules is actually a great comfort to me.

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