Thursday, March 3, 2022

#SOL22 March Musings Day 3: Ashes

"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return"?  

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. I started the day by recollecting Ash Wednesdays from my past. When I was a youngster in Catholic school, I proudly wore a cross of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Often, the cross placed on my head by the priest was thick and large. Sometimes, blackened ash would dribble down my face, tickle my nose, and fall onto my clothes. We were not supposed to touch our cross for fear of removing it. We fasted and ate one full meal of fish on Ash Wednesday and every Friday that followed until Easter. Sometimes, my mother would treat us to hot cross buns, warm and sticky from the neighborhood bakery oven. They had a huge white cross of frosting on the top. I savored the taste that reminded me to enjoy sweets for one last time until Easter. Fasting and abstinence were practices honored in my house and throughout my Catholic neighborhood.

The traditions of Ash Wednesday continued to be practiced as I grew older. Ashes became a symbol of faith, a reminder of repentance and mortality. Lenten practices were passed down to my children who learned the religious significance of placing ashes on their foreheads and the practice of "giving up" something, like candy or desserts, for the forty days until Easter. 

As the years progressed, we added good deeds to our practice rather than just giving something up. It seemed to provide a more positive alternative. Last night at our dinner of salmon and vegetables, my son and I spoke about our Lenten practice. Since my husband is on a strict medical diet, we thought treats should be eliminated during the week. This morning, we discussed potential changes in lifestyle after I watched an Ash Wednesday live stream service from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Monsignor Rossi started his homily with a quote from his mother, "The older you get the faster time goes by." He talked about the many Lents gone by and questioned, "How will this Lent be different from the past"? 

I ask myself how I will make this Lenten season different from the past. Pope Francis invites us to use the next forty days for a "conversion, a change of mindset". I will remember this call to action and add my voice to the Pope's petition of prayer for peace in Ukraine. My poem highlights in italics various Inspirational thoughts from Pope Francis.)

Ashes speak of
emptiness hiding behind
the frenetic quest
for worldly rewards.
I am from the spirit of
giving not taking.
Ashes remind me that 
worldliness is like dust
carried away by a
slight gust of wind.
I am not here to
chase the wind 
but to act in good faith.
Determined, I plot the course-
travel beyond empty deserts to verdant pastures.
-Forty Days of Peace-
©CV, 2022

Gratitude to:

Ruth Hersey, Host of Spiritual Journey Thursday, for suggesting the topic, ashes, this month. You can read Ruth's post and other posts from SJT writers' at
Ruth Hersey's blog here.
A  Meeting Place for A World of Reflective Writers


  1. Carol, I can sense that you live your entire life as a "call to action" for what is right and just. Lines like, "I am from the spirit of giving not taking" and "I am not here to chase the wind but to act in good faith" help me understand your motivation in your existence. I look forward to meeting you in heaven. :)

  2. Carol, yours is the second post and poem about ashes Ive read today. You may want to read Maureen Ingram’s lovely poem to illuminate your beautiful found poem. I’m not Catholic and never have much thought to lent growing up. I’m not sure I even knew what it was, so it’s of great importance to me to read and learn from you and others.

  3. Your poem and post are very powerful. It is wonderful to see traditions grow as we have our own families.

  4. Carol, Lent is a very solemn time. I am Byzantine rite catholic as opposed to Roman rite catholic so ashes were never part of our Lent. Also, our Lent begins on the Monday before Ash Wednesday and not Ash Wednesday. We abstain from meat and all dairy products on that day. That being said, we belong to a Roman catholic church because there are no Byzantine churches in our area.

  5. Carol, I find the question of "How will this Lent be different from the past?" a mighty one. It invites deepest introspection. I have been thinking lately of things I must let go, as they take up valuable space in my heart and mind the way that clutter does in a house. Not necessarily a sacrifice, in Lenten tradition, but a lightening of myself from what would keep me weighed down. I find that in desiring this the Lord makes it happen, as His yoke is easy and His burden light. The more inner open space, the more room for peace - that is the word I cling to here. Such a beautiful poem, incorporating the Pope's petition for peace for Ukraine. I join you in this prayer.

  6. Such gorgeous reflections on ashes! I, too, was raised Catholic and I thank you for reminding me of a long forgotten memory from Ash Wednesday - "We were not supposed to touch our cross for fear of removing it." So true!

  7. Beautiful, Carol! Thank you for sharing these inspiring thoughts. I will think about how this Lent will be different... a good challenge!

  8. Carol,
    I am struck with this lovely line today: "beyond empty deserts to verdant pastures." Yes, that's what I need. I loved reading your history of Ash Wednesday. As I child, I didn't observe Ash Wednesday, but I spent seven years as a teacher in a Catholic school, so I could relate to many of your memories through my students (and myself as a joyfully adopted Catholic).

    I like how you used the Pope's words among your own in your effective poem.

  9. Thanks, Carol, for sharing your thoughts and remembrances of ashes and Lenten practices. Like others, I love your phrase "beyond empty deserts to verdant pastures." It's interesting to contemplate how to make the next forty days a time of conversion and change. Thanks for adding to our collection.