POLL: 2017 #AshWednesday Ashes and You

IMG_0721Lent is an important season in the yearly cycle of a Catholic Christian’s life.  The inclination toward a feeling of obligation is laudable. The desire to begin the spiritual war of Lent by marking it with ashes is good.

Nevertheless, people are not obliged to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday nor to receive ashes.

You are not a “bad Catholic” if you don’t go to Mass on Ash Wednesday.

As a matter of fact, were someone to go and receive ashes because they want to be seen, not in the sense of bearing witness, but in the sense of “See how pious I am”… well…

His dictis, let’s move to our poll question.

Give us your best answer and your comments.  You must be registered and approved to comment but anyone can participate in the poll.

On Ash Wednesday 2017...

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mpmaron says:

    Ashes distributed by EMHC. “Repent and believe in the Gospel”

    Slightly disappointed.

    Sermon was a reminder for parishoners about alms, fasting, and prayer. Ushers distributed packets with helpful instructions. That’s great. No mention of confession. Everybody gets up for communion.

    The problem is I let this stuff get to me.

  2. Deo Credo says:

    I think it’s a good idea to get ashes and be seen. It can help start conversations which can lead towards saving people. I endured an “all about me” NO priest and a really sketchy liturgy. I think he was ad libbing, but I don’t attend the NO enough to be sure, just so I could be a visible sign. I’ve already explained fasting to 3 different people at work. I do think it’s strange how “catholics” flock to ash Wednesday but won’t go near the Easter triduum. Keep praying.

  3. juergensen says:

    Got to hear my favorite song, “On Eagles’ Wings” /sarc. That aside, each Ash Wednesday I have trouble reconciling the injunction of Jesus in the readings to “not blow a trumpet before you” (Matthew 6:1 et seq.) with walking around all day with ashes on our forehead.

  4. vetusta ecclesia says:

    Surprised (pleasantly!) at the size of the congregation this morning. Priest helped by adult server/EMHC to distribute; modern formula used. I prefer the memento one.

    Query: could you use the old rite for blessing and distribution followed by NO Mass?

  5. Joseph-Mary says:

    6:30 am Mass packed and the line for ashes was a long one but at least 1/3 of the people left after getting the ashes. Ran an errand to a store and overheard some people saying that, oh, it is Ash Wednesday and we gotta go get ashes.

  6. aquinasadmirer says:

    Went to a school mass, and it was packed.
    I received from a layman in the back section. Clergy were doing the imposition of the front section of the nave.

    Received on my forehead. When I lived in Japan, ashes were sprinkled on top of the head, rather than smeared on the forehead. I’m curious; which is more common?

  7. Facta Non Verba says:

    I always wipe mine off right after Mass (or receive in the evening, after work), to avoid having people think that I am just acting piously. Doesn’t the Gospel instruct us to wash our face, etc. when fasting? Am I wrong to be wiping off the ashes?

  8. Stephanus83 says:

    @Facta Non Verba “Am I wrong to be wiping off the ashes?”

    The ashes are blessed by a Priest or Deacon before you receive them. Since they’re blessed, intentionally wiping them off doesn’t seem to be a proper reaction.

  9. Richard A says:

    @Facta Non Verba: I think about this every year, because the gospel for this Mass specifically enjoins us not to alter our appearance to let others know that we’re fasting, as the Pharisees do. I console myself with the reminder that the distribution of ashes is part of the ritual for this Mass, and so its purpose is (maybe slightly) different. Makes me wonder about the 4% in the votes above, though. Which I probably shouldn’t. I attend the noon Mass at the cathedral downtown and it is always quite full on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, way more so than on holy days of obligation (it’s not my parish so I don’t attend there on Christmas). Something off about that, I think.
    I walk past an Episcopalian Church to get to the cathedral, and two years ago went past a priest(ess) who’d set up a booth on the sidewalk outside the church specifically so passersby to get the ashes. How is that not exactly what our Lord was enjoining us against? Please, Father Z, provide some assurance that the 4% above did not receive ashes from a Catholic priest outside of Mass!

  10. Richard A says:

    I very much lament the loss of the older formula for the distribution of ashes. I know at least one eight-year old boy in the ’60s who actually had to think hard about what was meant when Father called him a “man” , and then called his mother a “man” and his newborn sister whom she was carrying.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It is neither wrong to wipe off the ashes or to keep them. Prudence and Christian freedom, folks, and don’t be judging others for their lawful options. Honestly, life is too short.

    As for me, I have done both; but I have a kitchen job now and must keep fragments of sacramental out of the food.

  12. Lucas says:

    I sadly did not make it this year. :(

    The first Mass was right smack dab in the middle of school drop off and its a half today and the 2nd mass? Right during pick up.

    There is a late one, but *sigh* it’s right when the kids go to sleep.

  13. Imrahil says:

    As I’m usually a huge fan of not treating things as obligatory that aren’t, so am I here, of course.

    Nevertheless, attending Ash Wednesday Mass with the Imposition of the Ashes is among the few things (like the Easter Confession if you haven’t strictly speaking sinned mortally since last year; the Christmas Confession; attending some pray-for-the-dead service around All Souls; attending the Corpus Christi procession; attending two, rather than the obligatory one, services within the Easter triduum and perhaps on Christmas) where we could put the dangerous category “not obligatory, but just the thing one does as a Catholic” to use.

    Well, I went there, and got ashes.

    As for the wiping-them-off question: Having ashes on the forehead is not showing off towards pious people, because nearly all have them themselves and the rest would like to have had the opportunity but couldn’t make it. It is not showing off towards the less-than-pious-people either, because the only thing they’ll think is “he’s apparently a practicing Christian”. If it be a virtuous act rather than self-producing, to make a sign of the cross before a meal in public, then much more so is it allowed to leave one’s ashes in place, which is much more common and has much less to do with positive decision to let the rest of the world see.

    I had washed myself before, though. I have an ashen Cross in my face but not a dirty unwashen face.

  14. Mary Jane says:

    Will receive ashes this evening before the 7pm EF mass at our FSSP parish.

  15. visigrad says:

    Blessed to attend early morning EF. Father placed ashes on himself and reminded all as to the proper disposal of ashes as they are blessed.

  16. capchoirgirl says:

    Went to the 11:45 at my parish–four priests (we have five in residence) distributed ashes, and three priests distributed communion. We had quite a crowd! There’s also a Mass this evening.
    I was taught, somewhere along the line, that you don’t wipe off the ashes, since they’re blessed, you just normally let them sort of come off over the course of the day. What’s left before you go to bed, when you wash your face, is fine to wipe off then. Maybe I should wash my face with holy water tonight? :-p

  17. bushboar says:

    I went to a SSPX chapel for the first time – it’s the only place that offers the EF on weekdays in my diocese. I’ve never been to a EF on Ash Wednesday and so I didn’t know what to expect. The service was beautiful and I was happy to see the priest bless and incense the ashes. There’s something about incense – I always feel like I can still smell it hours after Mass.

    I’m going to go to Mass every weekday during Lent but the SSPX chapel is across town at 7:15 so unfortunately I can’t make it there everyday. Most days it will be novus ordo at the parish across the street from my office. I wish there were more EF options around here.

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    We were pleasantly surprised to see a big crowd at the 12:00 Mass. The homily was great, really great, a Polish-American priest who mentions sin and penance, prayer and fasting. Sin! He gave a really fine homily, as usual. The only downside he mentioned the pope.
    I wondered about the ashes as well. We didn’t wipe them off. There is a fine line where you wonder if you might be unwilling to demonstrate your faith publicly. That would not be acceptable at all.

  19. mburn16 says:

    “I think about this every year, because the gospel for this Mass specifically enjoins us not to alter our appearance to let others know that we’re fasting, as the Pharisees do…Makes me wonder about the 4% in the votes above, though.”

    As part of that “4%” last year (self-imposition in the chapel, which our church has open all day), and technically this year (since its not actually a mass that is held, just a liturgy of the word), I would argue that the scripture verse in question is a caution against doing things *so that they may be seen by others*. The fact that some of these things are seen – or known – by others is not a problem. After all, anyone going into a service is seen by all the other people at the service. As to why I have done the non-mass option, the answer is that I dislike getting ashes, wearing them for a couple hours, and going to bed. It seems more appropriate to have the symbol there for as much of the day as possible.

  20. Prayerful says:

    St Kevin’s church (right on the road to work) was where I got ashes at the morning during Low Mass. A priest who recently celebrated his golden jubilee said the Mass. The other priests are younger, but they have duties as diocesan officers (diocesan marriage tribunal and other duties I think). Some seem to have left after getting ashes or before the Leonine Prayers/Last Gospel, but that’s a saving of maybe five minutes. The Mass takes 30 minutes in the morning. A man could set his watch by them.

  21. michael de cupertino says:

    I read somewhere, perhaps on this blog, that in ancient™ times the ashes were imposed on the top of one’s head, and therefore blended in and were obscured by the hair. I like this strategy — you get them and keep them on all day, yet afterwards only you and your Father above have to know about it!

  22. frahobbit says:

    Immaculate Conception church nyc distributed, along with ashes, 7 Secrets of Confession by V. Flynn, free, as well as the Missal called the Word Among Us, also free. The church was packed. I don’t remember the last time I couldn’t find room for my coat on the pew.

  23. Poustinik1 says:

    It was all I could do to get to Church today, following two weeks of bronchial infection. So yes, just went for Ashes. Oh no, I thought, as I could feel the young Priest trace an absolutely massive crucifix I mean cross on my forehead. Afterwards, a quick check in the mirror revealed just as I feared…
    a 2 1/2 inch by 2 inch cross. No joke!!! And no I am not bald and have a small face. Really? How did Fr. do that? So yes, this year I did wipe 85% of it off. There was plenty of smudge evidence to wear around the rest of the day. Was able to return for evening Mass, again to another packed house, no parking anywhere and this was at the 5:15pm. I did notice that as this Mass was offered by a different Priest (the Pastor), the Ashes on the foreheads were much daintier! No, I did not feel the need to receive Ashes again though I noticed several women glancing at my forehead at the end of Mass. Its okay ladies, I know that I am only dust.

  24. VexillaRegis says:

    One Ash Wednesday, when I was walking from the church to the parking lot, I noticed that people stared at me in a weird way. I wondered why, because we had had the ashes sprinkled on top of our heads instead of having a cross painted. When I got into the car I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear mirror. Gah! There were ashes all over my forehead and my cheekbones and nose! The priest had placed a smaller mountain of dust in my hair, and when I put my hat on it blew or sifted down into my face! No wonder people turned around when they saw me – they probably thought the was a fire somewhere!

  25. AmjdhA says:

    Morning Mass in the Extraordinary Form with one priest (excellent brief homily), Ashes, and the Eucharist

    Present for two NO Masses later in the day at a military Chapel with Protestants, Catholics, and possibly others attending. Father made repeated announcements about ashes being available to all but Holy Communion being limited to Catholics who were properly disposed. I was pleasantly surprised. EMHCs used for both ashes and Communion. I did not receive any additional ashes. I had one person outside of Mass ask me what the ashes were, but he was polite and seemed interested about it. I’m always surprised at the number of adults who don’t know what ashes are or claim to have never seen them before.

  26. Maria_1 says:

    Attended mid-day Mass and the church was packed. We had people standing in rows in the back by the baptismal font. I left the ashes on. As a convert, when I wasn’t Catholic I always admired that people would boldly represent Christ with this sacramental. He deserves our boldness.

  27. Cafea Fruor says:

    Alas, I was sick and didn’t make it. First time in YEARS. :-(

  28. Gregg the Obscure says:

    As usual, the after work Ash Wednesday Mass had one of the biggest – and youngest – crowds of the year. I can’t speak for the other four earlier in the day, though I presume the one with the school kids would have been pretty big too.

    I had a hard time maintaining decorum for a moment as a very pale lady in the same pew had not only the smeary cross on her forehead, but a streak of ash from the bridge of her nose to nearly the tip of her nose.

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