What are you doing on Ash Wednesday?

If Fat Tuesday finds you feasting on pancakes or jelly donuts or chocolate or beer - I presume you don't need much encouragement from me!

So, I'll direct your attention to tomorrow: Ash Wednesday.

There was a time, and it is still the case in many places, when Ash Wednesday would see hordes of people streaming into churches to be signed with an ashen cross on their foreheads. My experience in suburbia, however, tells me that the Ash Wednesday numbers are often smaller than the regular weekend crowds. Granted, some folks will go to Ash Wednesday services near their work sites but my guess is that a number of Catholics no longer count this the important day their parents and grandparets did.

Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligation but it is nonetheless a unique day on the church calendar and a powerful way to begin the Lenten season.

I encourage you, then, wherever you may be tomorrow, to make an effort to join a community for prayer and to be marked with the sign of the Cross by which we are saved.



  1. I remember a homily that Fr. Murray gave two or three Ash Wednesdays in a row. On an Ash Wednesday several years prior Fr. Murray was saying mass and periodically he would hear the door at the back of the church open but no one would come in. Finally, when mass ended and the distribution of ashes began, lots of people poured in to receive ashes. His point was that people were more concerned about getting ashes than they were about attending mass. I would hope that people are now more concerned about participating in the mass than simply coming to receive ashes. Though receiving ashes does give me a true sense of humility and does focus me on the weeks of Lent ahead that lead to the most important days of our liturgical year.

  2. I accidentally deleted a comment from Maeve - mea culpa! Here it is:

    Anonymous 2/24:

    I agree with Concord Carpenter that you have made a strong point. I may be about to enlarge on it too much! I believe that many of the customs such as the receiving of ashes, the crowning of Mary and the May Day procession, the recitation of the Rosary, the wearing of Miraculous Medals, having lots of saints' statues in the house, hanging St. Christopher off the rearview mirror, lighting candles for intentions, and not eating meat on Friday, (I have used the term "customs" as an umbrella term even though it is not the most appropriate for everything I have listed) - seemed to be more important and significant to many Catholics than the Mass. After all, you can't really TELL someone has been to Mass just because you see a person go in or out a church door! You can see ashes and witness such demonstrations of "Catholicity" as not eating meat on Friday. I do not wish to blame those who felt this way. I think there was a certain amount of Church encouragement for their doing so.

  3. Our noon time Mass today was packed, admittedly due in part to our central location in the city and the fact that we were the only church having Mass in that time slot. But interestingly, although ashes were distributed after the homily and before communion, almost the entire congregation stayed for the entire Mass. Generally, that has not been the case in past years. Whatever the reason, it was a great sight!


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