OK friends, this is the starting line. It’s Ash Wednesday.
Across the street from the Casa di Swears is a very large Catholic church. It’s my church. St. Clement’s Roman Catholic Church. This morning, the parking lot of the church was full of parishioners celebrating Ash Wednesday. They celebrated the mass, got a smudge of ashes on their forehead, and went about their day. Tonight, there will be a different cohort that attends for the same reason.
I watch, all year long, the parade of cars in and out of that parking lot. Saturday evenings, Sunday morning. Holy days of obligation, mornings throughout the week, funerals sprinkled in to the week, sometimes weddings on bright Saturdays. Ash Wednesday,, though, is one of the busiest days. Busier, even, than Midnight Mass on Christmas eve.
What draws us all there in the middle of the week? A smudge of ash and the rather macabre declaration that we came from dust, and we’ll eventually return to it. I mean, a little momento mori isn’t a bad thing, but we all lead busy lives full of extra curricular activities and grocery shopping and chiropractor’s appointments and oil changes. And yet, the church is packed; moreso because the every-other-pew distancing rules have been lifted by the diocese (and the province) just yesterday.
I go because I like the feeling of declaring my faith. Everyone spends the day (or the evening, if you’re attending the later mass) with a visual reminder. We come together and we recognize each other as we go about our days – picking up prescriptions or taking the train or walking the dog.
Some people will just do it out of obligation. This is what we do on Ash Wednesday. And respecting an obligation isn’t a terrible reason to go. I like taking the step over the line into a holy time. It feels important to mark the starting line, rather than just snowballing our way through 6 weeks to the finish line at Easter. Something good starts here. Today I take the first of many steps that bring me closer to the best version of me. I take the first steps toward being a better steward of my relationships and my environment. I take the first steps toward being the change I want to see in the world.
It’s easy to say that one little thing doesn’t make a difference. And the punchline of that is that if you’ve ever spent time in a tent with a mosquito you know that one little thing can make a huge difference. But small changes to move away from bad habits and divisive behaviours will reap benefits. I’m excited to see where we can all be in 6 weeks.
This Lent, may my actions speak louder than my words.
I’ve created landing pages for the last 3 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!
I also found this article about why you should take discouragement and reframe it as determination: Why you should make resolutions even when you know you’ll fail.