Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

"Dust you were born, and to dust you will return."

Before I made my First Communion, I knew little about Ash Wednesday except for when my older brother explained that when I died I was going to be a speck of dust.
"Like that," he said pointing into the sunlight by the window.
I never paid much thought to what he said since I had yet to learn that a person's soul lives on when they pass away. In my vocabulary, dust was something to do with Tinkerbell and fairies.
Ash Wednesday (which falls between Feb. 4 and March 10) takes place 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays) and marks the beginning of Lent. Roman Catholics between the ages of 14 and 59 are supposed to refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays until Easter. In addition, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday people ages 18 to 59 should fast by eating just one meal. (The left over pot roast from last night must wait until tomorrow!)
Being raised a Catholic was a pleasure for me because of my love of the saints, the way we celebrated Easter and Christmas, and the smell of incense at special Masses. However, with it came a kind of fear. Like going to confession. As an 8-year-old, I learned that when I went into the confessional I would say, "Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been (amount of time) since my last confession. These are my sins." Then the priest would tell me what prayers to say. I had to say them correctly or it wouldn't count and then I couldn't receive Communion.
I trembled in fear. What if I heard the priest wrong? What if I didn't remember when my last confession was?
Father Lyons spoke fast and mumbled. So every Saturday afternoon I hoped that Father Tetreault would be on the other side of the screen.
Still, as much as my experiences with church were sometimes scary there were just as many wonderful memories. Such as when the priests explained to us about the ashes used on Ash Wednesday
They are made from the previous year's Palm Crosses from Palm Sunday. They are burned and often mixed with sacred oils. And, although I haven't been to Mass in a very long time, every year, my dad still sets aside Palms for me which I tie into a Cross and keep in my bedroom.

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