Friday, February 27, 2009

Ash Wednesday-- three short comments and one longer one

1) I've been trying to cut down on the Internet for Lent. Turns out, if I keep myself strictly to what I consider a not-indecent amount of time to spend on the computer in one day... it leaves me absolutely no time to blog. :P

2) First meal of the first day of Lent. I unwrapped my Promax bar (the nutty butter crunch flavor is really tasty) and sat on a couch in our lab's coffee room, in a meditative mood. As planned, I had no book or Internet to amuse me; I could spend my entire (small) breakfast thinking of God. So I ate slowly, and as I finished off the last bites, I realized... that I'd spent the entire time studying the nutrition facts on the wrapper. It's such a force of habit to read while eating that I can't remember not to do it even when I'm remembering not to do it!

3) On Ash Wednesday I went to one regular Mass and one in the Extraordinary Form. Both Masses were good. In the NO Mass we got ashed at the end; in the traditional Latin rite the priest crossed all the foreheads with ashes right at the beginning before the Mass even started. I liked this much better, because it kept the main focus not on receiving ashes but on receiving the Eucharist.

Speaking of that...

4) My parish is right in the middle of a Hispanic neighborhood, and Ash Wednesday is the big day for Spanish-speaking Catholics, bigger than Christmas or Easter. So the schedule is as follows: Masses at 6 am, 8 am, 12 noon, and 8 pm. From 3 pm to 8 pm there are half-hour services, with a short sermon and the distribution of ashes, every half hour. For each of these services, they let folks in till the church is full (and it's a large church), then lock the doors, have the service, and let everyone out by the back doors while the new shift crowds in the front. So a whole heck of a lot of people come to church that day. Now why do so many people want to get ashes if they don't bother to obey any of the precepts of the Church, like, say, the one about coming to Mass every Sunday? I don't know, but I was talking with an LC priest tonight who assured me that some believe if they don't get their ashes, and they die before the next Ash Wednesday, they'll go to Hell. Strange that someone can get that belief fixed firmly in his head but not have room for some things the Church actually teaches... A new acquaintance said she saw a man at the 7-11 with the ash cross on his forehead and a hot dog in his hand. (Catholics aren't required to go to Mass or get ashes on Ash Wednesday, but they are required to fast and abstain from meat on that day.) Ah well. One cool thing about cultural Catholicism is that even someone who's otherwise far from the Church will still come one day a year. Gives our zealous priests a chance to preach it to them: "The ashes will not save you!"

5 comments:

Kay said...

I wonder if the Spanish-speaking parishioners in your neighborhood are coming from parts of the world where there aren't enough priests, so they're used to having a "real Mass" only a couple of times a year. An Ash Wednesday service is something that is probably performed by a lay minister out in the rural areas of many countries, and so perhaps the people are more used to that ritual or can relate to it better than a Eucharistic celebration? I've noticed that at our parish, a lot of the Spanish-speaking folks don't regularly receive Communion. I don't know enough about Latin American Catholism & culture to know why that is--perhaps they don't believe that they're "worthy enough" to receive the Eucharist? If that's the case, it makes all the sense in the world why they would flock to a penitential Ash Wednesday service.

The Cellarer said...

Was in a shop (that's 'store' to you lot I believe) 2 years ago at the till and when I turned round with my ashes on, the girl (with a bottle of alcopop in each hand) looked horrified. "Is it Ash Wednesday today?" "Yes" I replied.
"I didn't go to f*****g Mass!" she exclaimed. She looked genuinely annoyed at herself.

Slightly taken aback, I wondered if she then went home and drank all the alcopops!

Rachel Gray said...

Kay, it's the same at all the Spanish Masses at my parish-- sometimes more than half the congregation stays seated during Communion. I'm told it's because they know and accept that receiving Holy Communion in an unworthy manner just makes matters worse. A lot of them are cohabiting and other things, and unlike English-speaking Catholics who apparently never heard of 1 Cor 11 and go to Communion every week without ever going to Confession, the Hispanics who aren't in a state of grace are at least smart enough not to add sacrilege to their other sins.

Given that, I can imagine why, as you say, those who don't regularly receive Communion might flock to receive ashes-- because it's something they *can* receive, without relinquishing whatever sin they're holding on to. But the priests are quite right to warn that sins can only be forgiven if you confess them-- ashes won't do it.

Rachel Gray said...

Thanks Cellarer, that story cracked me up! (By the way, I'm used to both "shop", and "store", but I had to Google "alcopop".) :)

Kay said...

I must admit, I cracked up at your #2 point above--the one about not reading while eating & then spending breakfast time reading the ingredients on the breakfast bar. I had a similar experience awhile ago--I resolved to do a week-long "reading fast"--no newspapers, no magazines, no books, no internet, etc. So...on the first day, instead of reading the morning paper, I decided I would use the time to journal. 30 minutes later, I realized that I had spent about 5 minutes journaling & 25 minutes READING my previous journal entries. Wasn't even aware that I was doing it...