Ash Wednesday: A Holy Day, I Yearn For.

My husband and I received our ashes from Cardinal Mahoney, my first year as a Catholic. I sat down in the pew, I could hear the Cardinal repeating the words,

Turn away from sin, be true to the Gospel

I love the repetition of words. Protestants don't tend to favor that type of prayer, worship but I do. I remember times of feeling far from God, frightened. All I had to cling on to were a few words from a song I might have learned in Sunday School or VBS as a child. I would just repeat them in prayer over and over until they sunk in.

Turn away from sin, be true to the Gospel

My mentor in seminary, would always say, if we really believed what we said we believed, our lives would be proof of that. Isn't that what being true to the Gospel means. Now that you have repented and believed, live like you mean it.

On the bus ride home, one of the ladies who was in Mass with us had her hair arranged just so, so that her cross of ashes was not visible to others. I thought, what a shame. I understand that it is awkward, you get a lot of stares, but I love receiving my cross. It is the one day of the year that I walk down the street, people look at me and know that I belong to Christ. I am proud of that.

Sure, you get a lot of people who don't know what it means. You also get a lot of people who look and are reminded, "Yes, today is a day of holy obligation. I should go to church today".

When I came back to faith several years ago, I started romanticizing the communion of saints. I believe there is something mystical that happens, when we are transformed by God's grace. We are connected to one another in a mystical way.

I remember daydreaming how marvelous it would be, if you knew that someone was a Christian and they would have to love you, take you in, encourage you and vice versa. Once at a Starbucks the barista said "Here you go, Sister" as he passed me my drink. I thought "Is he a Christian? How did he know? " I said outside contemplating this when he came out to empty the trash, a guy held open the door for him. "Thank you Brother" he said. My daydream was crumbling. He returned and asked one of the patrons outside with me "How is your latte, Brother?" I began to suspect that he just called everyone Brother and Sister, like an old hippie. Ash Wednesday is one of those days that we know that we are connected when we see that cross of ashes on our forehead.

I walked back into my building and was greeted by one of the maintenance men. He lit up when he saw me walk in. With very limited and broken English, he pointed to my cross with love and reverence..."That is good!" he said to me. Yes, we are mystically connected to one another.

Peace be with you.