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.)