This post originally appeared February 25, 2009…
Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said I don’t talk about religion? Well, scratch that. I saw a lot of comments on the internet last night from people who were confused by Lent. Never fear! Momo is here! Here to set you heathens straight.
Let’s start with Ash Wednesday, because well…it’s today, and if you see people walking around with ashes on their foreheads, you won’t just think they need to bathe.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Roman Catholic church, which is the 40 day period of preparation before Easter. For those of you who think Catholics can’t count and say, “You people drink too much! There are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter!”, that’s because Sundays don’t count. It’s kind of like kissing your grandma, in that you probably kissed her first, but you don’t consider her your first kiss. Some things just don’t count.
Ash Wednesday is a day of fast. Many Catholics will take the money that they would have spent on food and give it to the poor. Though, you know…recession. The act of fasting allows us to begin this period of reflection with a clean slate. It is a form of penance for our sins. It also makes most of us grumpy and gives us bad breath.
At Ash Wednesday Mass, the priest, or deacon or someone else authorized to do so, will take ashes made from burning the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday Mass and put a cross on the congregant’s forehead and say, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This is to remind us to shape up real quick-like before St. Peter meets us at the pearly gates and says, “Sorry ’bout your luck.”
So for 40 days and nights we reflect. We think about our sins, we fast, we pray, we give alms and we repent. A lot of Catholics offer up sacrifices. I am giving up chocolate. Mm-hmm. That’s right. Just when the Girl Scout cookies get delivered too. This is why my Fat Tuesday dessert consisted of chocolate molten lava cake with ice cream and Reese’s Cups on top. What?
When it gets hard to bear…like when your husband eats an entire sleeve of Thin Mints in your face…you remember Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, think about how you have sinned against Him and try not to smack your husband. Then you can offer up that you didn’t eat the chocolate AND you didn’t smack your husband. That’s a Catholic two-fer.
If you see someone with ashes on their forehead today (including me) now you will know why. We are reminding ourselves that we won’t be on this earth forever and we need to be sorry for our sins. It may not hurt you to remind yourself of that as well. Catholic or not, you can’t deny that life is short and good morals aren’t so bad.
So, if you see us, we don’t care if you stare at our ashes, but don’t get close enough to smell our breath. Fair warning.