When I was at university, frosh week had hoards of students in our coveralls wandering around Kingston. The Engineers had gold spray-painted mohawks and/or hard hats, and the upper year engineers had dyed themselves purple using concentrated Gentian Violet. The other faculties often spent the summer amassing tricolour (or faculty colour) greasepaint, and would draw a subtle flag or colour their whole heads and then, in the midst of obstacle courses and signing up for courses, would go to the bank with our painted faces on full glorious display. Except you couldn’t see the paint, so you’d forget it was there, and you wouldn’t know why you were getting some weird looks standing in line to see a teller. You were conspicuous, and you totally forgot why.
It’s a similar experience with Ash Wednesday most years. I attend 8am mass, then go about my day… working, chiropractor appointment, whatever, with a big black smudge on my forehead. It was mostly forgotten about as soon as I couldn’t see anyone else’s ashen forehead. Some years I went to an evening mass, walked home in the mostly-dark, and went about my business for a few hours until bed.
This year, I was expecting to not be able to go to mass today. Usually at night I walk Louie, and our route takes us past St Clements RC church in Preston. It’s across the street from my house, looming large against the setting sun. Until very recently, there was a piece of paper on each wooden door: “Closed until further notice”.
Well, further notice arrived, and Mass resumes today! Hooray! This is a great relief to me. I have been missing my faith community. It’s been over a year since I set foot in a church. The last time – the only time during that time was for a cousin’s funeral. Even with the God Squad bouncer at the door of the church, we were on the very limited list who were granted permission to enter the Basilica of Christ the King that day. There were masses for a while, but I didn’t go. It was a mix of apathy and Covid hysteria that made me look longingly at the stained glass windows every Sunday morning (and various evenings as we walked), but not cross the doorstep into the church.
My church is pretty massive, so we’re able to have 120 in there at once. This is probably about 10% of the people who could fit, shoulder to shoulder, when that was a thing. Whether by parish-imposed participation limits or self-imposed risk threshold limits, desperate times call for desperate measures. So now, there’s a play along at home option: Ash Wednesday at Home
So, friends, welcome to Lent. May we pray or reflect on ways to be a better person. May we fast from distractions that pull our focus away from doing good for others. May we be generous to those who have a need that we can help address.
God bless, friends.
I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!