“Tell me your name,” the priest said to me.
I hesitated for a second. I’ve been doing the Ash Wednesday routine for a long time now and no priest has ever asked me to identify myself.
Was he going to hit me up for a donation? Or enter my name into some kind of sinners logbook that I suspect all priests have hidden in their cassocks?
Being from Brooklyn, I was within my rights to snarl “what’s it to ya?”
But I didn’t. I answered like a good little Catholic boy, even though we were in an Episcopal church.
And all the man did was personalize the line from Genesis about remembering “thou art dust and to dust thou shall return.”
As I do every year, I quickly forgot I was wearing ashes so whenever I looked in the mirror today I had a split-second freak-out as I wondered what the hell was on my forehead.
Yes, it’s all a ritual, but it’s my ritual and Lent has taken on a special significance for me this year.
Father Mark at Trinity Church described Lent as “a most exciting time of the year.” This contrasts sharply with my grade school experience where we had to “give up” something for Lent or risk going to hell.
Come to think of it, just about everything back then seemed to involve going to hell, which is about as exciting as you can get.
I think I tried giving up candy one year when I was a kid and you’ll never guess how that worked out. Will I really suffer eternal damnation over a Hershey Bar?
Give It Up
Regrettably I didn’t have time to attend mass today. The Lenten mass is longer than the usual daily service and I didn’t want to sit in church worrying about getting back to the office.
I must say, however, that the pews at Trinity were packed today, unlike most weekday masses, where we have a hard time putting together a baseball game. Some people just show up for the big ones.
A dear friend of mine introduced me to an alternative to the “dust to dust” quote. She, instead, favors the line from Mark: “Repent and receive the good news.”
Some people may not see much difference between the two, but I need all the good news I can get.
I saw a Facebook posting that proclaimed Lent as a time of spiritual renewal, “rather than a time of deprivation.” When you look at it that way, Lent takes on an entirely different meaning.
I will admit it is strange to see people walking around in the 21st Century with soot on their foreheads. But I am so glad this tradition still continues in these days of skyscrapers and smartphones.
I’m feeling in need of a bit of spiritual renewal right about now. I’m still working on being more mindful and I’m not satisfied with my lack of progress.
I am getting better at catching myself slipping into the past or worrying about the future, but I'm still wasting brain cells on this behavior and it's a bit disappointing.
I know the dangers of sweeping declarations so I will not make any. I'm not going to vow to give up anything, except, perhaps, I'll give up making vows I can't keep.
I’m only seeking to renew my spirit.
I'm going to be taking some time off. I'll try and keep up with all your blogs, but don't hate me if I fall behind. See you soon.