Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Season

Ash Wednesday has always been among my favorite of the Christian/Catholic rituals. I can remember going to Mass as a child, and seeing all the kids in school with the black cross smudged on their foreheads for the rest of the day. I think I even went a time or two with my grandma, I don't remember when, I just remember the Mass, and seeing the church full of cousins and aunts and uncles, and everyone coming away with the ashes.

I took my eight to Mass this evening. I love cramming my family into an already full church. Seeing the people who have made a point to attend Mass, in nurses uniforms, suits, work boots and dusty shirts. I love thinking about their lives, and how we all made this effort to get to Mass on a busy Wednesday, how we all gathered with the Communion of Saints, for the Eucharist, and the distribution of ashes. Knowing that this is happening across the globe - that lifts me up, makes me feel like a part of this body of Christ.

My two oldest daughters had planned to go to Mass with us, then out to a movie. This didn't sit well with me, but I didn't stop them from going. It didn't sit well, because I felt that they were not getting the contemplative nature of the Mass. They were going because I wanted them to, because it was Ash Wednesday, and they just did. We talked about the ashes on the way to church, a little refresher for some, and an introduction to the littles who likely did not recall it from last year. My oldest said she was going to wash her face before they left, and I was again bothered by her attitude. She didn't want people looking at her with her ash smudged cross on her forehead. I tried to figure out how to explain to her that while we certainly don't wear the ashes as some sort of badge of honor, they are not to be disregarded, either. They are a reminder from whence we came, and where we shall return.

As I watched the people file out of Mass, I thought they were beautiful. Many of them tired from a long day at work or school, they all filed out of Mass, smiling, talking quietly. The ashes on their foreheads would be a reminder to all who see it that Lent begins today. That a period of reflection and prayer has begun. That the sacrifices we make will be to honor the sacrifice of Christ, not fodder for Facebook statuses.

As I looked down the row at my own children's faces, now smudged with the ashes, I thought about tradition, about faith, and about teaching them to quietly pray, contemplate, and prepare. They of course, spent a good bit of the last week talking about what they were giving up for Lent. Giving something up is nice, but when you have so much, is it really meaningful? I told them that giving something up was wonderful, but that they also needed to do something - say extra prayers, do a good deed. Give of themselves, rather than simply giving up pudding or chocolate.

As my family moves into the Lenten season, we are going to focus on why we do these things, as much as doing them, it's important for them to know why. As I feel my oldest slipping out and away from the faith, forgetting who and why, I feel the need to instill to a greater degree in the ones I still have here, under my watchful eye. I hope that as she matures, she will return to her former love and understanding of Christianity, and more specifically, the Catholic faith. I know these are growing pains, and many college students go through it. I did. I was waiting for it. I just wish it weren't happening at a time when she thinks I have no idea what I am talking about. That, too is not unexpected, but it still hurts. She is spending some time with her beautiful 14 year old sister, who maybe can help recenter her a bit, as her faith is strong and growing.

I am going to post some Lenten friendly recipes, because I know it's hard sometimes to find things that are simple, yet appealing to littles. Check back tomorrow - a recipe for Friday - Noodle Kugel! I learned to make it when I worked at a Jewish Community Center. I loved it, and would like to share a recipe one of the ladies there gave me - you'll love it!


  1. Can't wait to hear your recipes -- I need some ideas!

    Today I had to miss the Ash Wednesday mass due to being in bed recovering, but my husband took all the kids with him for the 7:00pm mass. They all came back with the smudges on their foreheads, and my oldest son (who will be 20 next month) had to go to work his evening shift, and I said to him, "Be sure not to wipe off the ashes..." and he paused at the door and gave me a look, and he said, "Mmmm....I have to go to work like this?" and it just about broke my heart, because this child of mine has been raised in our faith his entire life and has always had ashes on his forehead on this day. But now he asks if he has to go to work with them on. I said to him, "Don't be ashamed of your faith. Wear them proudly." I'll be interested to see if he comes home in a few hours with the smudge still there. Am I wrong to feel badly that he wanted them off, for appearance sake? Is he not proud to be Catholic? am I making too big of a deal out of it? How would that have made you feel? Just curious to see if I'm over-reacting. You know, the hormones are flowing and going a bit haywire right now, due to yesterday's ordeal. So I maybe I'm just hyper-sentimental right now ;)

  2. HI Katrina, you are not over reacting at all. I had this same conversation with my oldest. She wanted to wash her face before going out to the movies. I told her not too, and she had the same reaction as your son. I was upset that she didn't want people to see the ashes. They are the mark of a Christian, wear them, it is a sign of faith! Ah - she had them rubbed off before she even left, but my 14 year old left hers. I hope she gets through what I pray is a phase and comes back to embrace our Catholic faith wholeheartedly. I'll say a little prayer for your Tony, while saying one for my daughter. Blessings, I hope you are feeling okay, and healing well. Megan


A blogger loves feed back, and a part time narcissist needs it! If you have a comment or question, I promise to get back to you right away, it's not like I have a houseful of kids to feed or anything!