Area Catholic Preparing To Be Notified About Dirt On Forehead All Day Long

February 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Mass, Uncategorized

Watertown, MN––While receiving ashes on his forehead at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Watertown, Minnesota early this morning, area Catholic Trevor Davis fervently prayed for patience to endure what he expected to be a “long day filled with well-intentioned, yet obnoxious remarks” about the dirt on his forehead. “Look, here’s the deal,” he reportedly told St. Monica, the Patron Saint of Patience, as he returned to his pew. “I know it should be an opportunity to evangelize, but come on…we do this every year, and every year people act like it’s the first time they’ve ever seen a Catholic on Ash Wednesday?” Davis later went on to pray, asking his Guardian Angel to protect him from the horde of nominal Catholic friends that didn’t make it to Mass, and that were inevitably bound to ask him if he wouldn’t mind bumping heads just a bit. At press time, a nominal Catholic stranger at the local coffee shop was in the process of informing Davis that he had indeed completely forgotten about Ash Wednesday due to getting “smashed” on Mardi Gras.

  • Luke

    A serious Catholic question for the seriously-Catholic readers of a less-than-serious Catholic website:

    How is wearing ashes on our foreheads to mark the beginning of a season of fasting not in violation of the Gospel message for the same day? “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…” What could be more gloomy than wearing ashes? In fact, it is ~almost~ as if Christ warns against this exact practice: “When you fast… wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting.” My forehead is hardly the ideal place for me to remind myself of my fast, but it is the ideal place for making a show of my fast before my neighbors. If a non-Catholic neighbor asks me why I am wearing ashes, and I explain all about Ash Wednesday and Lent, this implies to him – since I am wearing the ashes, which he has clearly noticed – that I too am fasting. But if I allow him to find out that I am fasting, don’t I already have my reward here on earth?

    Please note that this question is not in any way a challenge to the authority of the Church – it is asked by a faithful and obedient Catholic, whose faith seeks understanding. Please, no vitriolic rants or knee-jerk answers: I seek only a well-thought-out answer that understands my confusion and addresses it with an authoritative teaching.

    • Kat

      That’s a really good question, and something I’ve wrestled with, too. I’m hoping someone else will chime in here, as well, but here’s what I was told when I asked the question of a Catholic who’s far beyond me in knowledge/spirituality:

      The ashes are not a symbol of fasting (to exemplify that, note that even little kids, old people, and pregnant women get ashes, even though they’re completely exempt from the fasting and abstinence regs). They’re a sacramental to remind us that we are sinners. Just like the people who sat down in the ashes and rent their clothes to show their repentance (because we’re a physical people – body and soul – and need our symbols), the ashes on our foreheads are a small way to remind us that we need to turn ourselves back to Christ, who raises us from the dust to which we shall return.

      • Joe

        You shouldn’t look gloomy when you have the ashes on your forehead.

    • John

      Hello! It’s a good question, but the ashes have nothing to do with fasting.

      The ashes are there to remind us that we are dust, and that to dust we will return. Thus, we need to “repent and believe in the Gospel.”

      God bless!

    • frahobbit

      An answer I gave to myself is that to do what all the rest of the church is doing does not “singularize” yourself [IN ORDER to be seen]; it shows we are as a corporate body [ ??(] doing a faith action in unity. That action is in obedience to Christ. The fasting and prayer that are done in secret are those that express your personal union with God; if done publicly it is merely to appear singular and of exalted holiness.

    • Martha

      Ha! That’s a good one, Luke. Quite the conundrum, actually. ;D

  • Jerømie

    Revelation 13:16 “It also forced all people,
    great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on
    their right hands or on their foreheads”

    • Allen Lyons

      Fortunately, no one is “forced.” Instead it’s a voluntary acknowledgment of our own mortality. A sign of humbling ourselves before God.

  • Nick B.

    A very good question. To me, the ashes are not supposed to attract positive attention (Look at me, I’m so holy), but are rather a sign of humility (Look at me, I made from dust and I’m gonna be dust). They can also be an opportunity to evangelize, if someone asks why you have that ridiculous mark on your forehead!

  • Lee Bacchi

    But since the ashes are supposed to come from last year’s remaining palms from Holy Week, the ashes are a sign of rebirth. Also, ashes were used in the past to clean (a kind of soap, if you will), so thus a sign of the inner cleansing of sin through repentance.

  • Allen Lyons

    Remember, Luke, nothing says you have to keep them on all day, or even after you’ve left the church. It’s the act of going forward and receiving the ashes that is the act of humility; your acknowledgment of your mortality as we enter the season of repentance and preparation for Christ’s conquering the “ashes” of death and our rising with him on Easter. So if it bothers you or seems contrary to the Gospel (although, as John said, it has nothing to do with the fact that you’re fasting), wash them off. That’s perfectly acceptable.