Ashes help Catholics stand out

By  Daniele Muscolino, YSN
  • March 8, 2007

I have always looked forward to Ash Wednesday. Ever since I could remember, there was something about receiving an unusual mark on my forehead that got me excited. Maybe when I was a bit younger I didn’t understand everything about Lent or why we were receiving ashes on our heads, but there was that special mystery to it that I remember enjoying as a child.

Now I know we bear ash on our forehead to humble our hearts and as a reminder of our own mortality as we hear “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

This year, I had the opportunity to attend Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. I had attended Mass during the afternoon, and I realized as I walked through the streets of downtown Toronto all day just why I have always enjoyed Ash Wednesday. It is the one day where we, as Catholics, stand out. It is the one day where we all are placed on that pedestal of faith ready to commit to 40 days of penance, sacrifice and prayer.

As I walked through the streets, the malls, restaurants and even during a Toronto Raptors game at the Air Canada Centre, it was evident that we are not alone on this journey of faith over the period of Lent.

It’s funny how people who do not know why we have ash on our forehead will stare or point, take a double-look or awkwardly motion that there is something on my forehead. I usually play along for a moment before explaining to them what it is all about.

My favourite part is when those of us bearing ash will sometimes nod and smile at each other as we pass by, sort of like greeting members of our team.

Though I like Ash Wednesday for the fact that it is one day where we physically stand out from everyone, I often think how much we should always stand out from all the others, not just on this day.

The world today, more than ever before, needs the presence of Christ’s love, peace and compassion that we can provide through prayer and acts of kindness.

Lent to me is a time where we can slow down in this fast-paced world and focus on our own personal relationship with Christ and how we are measuring up to what God is calling us to be.

I believe that time for self-reflection is often needed in our life which leads to self-renewal — a renewal that can bring a conversion of heart. This can be the most rewarding part of Lent, more so than can come from giving up our favourite snack or activity.

As we journey together this Lent may we always be mindful of the needs of others. Perhaps we can take on charitable works, standing up against social injustices or being a source of love to those who feel abandoned. And while now that smudge on our forehead is gone hopefully people will feel the presence of Christ, in whom we will be renewed come Easter.

(Muscolino, 22, studies communications at Laurentian University in Sudbury.)

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