Ashes to Ashes: A Journey of Faith

stained glassIt has been a long time since I checked Catholic on any form that inquired about my religious preferences.

Like many of us from the 60’s, I was quick to leave behind all the liturgical vestiges of faith practices, spent some time in the barren desert of vague beliefs, and re-emerged recklessly following Jesus and clearly Protestant.

Except on Ash Wednesday.

Like visiting a beloved hometown that didn’t seem so beloved in one’s youth, I made my annual two-block early morning trek to the Catholic church on the corner and lined up to get ashes. The words to the liturgy came out of my mouth flawlessly like being able to still find your way in your old neighborhood.

Instead of an intruder, I felt like I was visiting relatives, not my immediate family but clearly part of my heritage that I don’t see often but hold very dear.

In the early evening I carefully wiped off my forehead to prepare the space for a new splat of ashes, at my home church with my own faith community. Did I need to get ashes twice to get the full benefit of the day?  No, but once a year I choose a visible reminder that my past informs my present.

Worshiping with my new ashes and old friends, I noticed the Stations of the Cross fanning the room just like at the morning service.  For a brief moment, I glimpsed not just my personal legacy of ashes to ashes but the Communion of Saints who have gathered for centuries to offer our foreheads as a sign of  rendering our hearts.

I am honored and humbled to be in such good company.

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