Ashes to Go

Today being Ash Wednesday, the chaplains fanned out around St. Francis to deliver ashes to foreheads of those employees who wanted them. Sister Margaret Downing led us in this effort. It was such a meaningful ritual, and I found I needed it, too, partly because I was missing my own service at church.

When it was my turn, I said: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Sister Margaret used this phrase: “Remember that you are more than dust, and you shall live forever.”

I had never heard hers. Though I found I preferred it, I also liked that we used different versions. They seemed to work together.

Hers is more uplifting but the version I’m familiar with reminds me that this body is mortal.

Thus begins Lent, which for Christians is the period in the calendar calling us to reflection, repentance and sacrifice. Certainly we should practice those in all times, but particularly during Lent when I am reminded, among other things, of Jesus’ 40 days of suffering in the desert.

The faces of the recipients today offered a picture of beauty. Not only was each face different, but the expressions as well. Some closed their eyes. Others shed tears. Many smiled. I’m grateful for Sister Margaret, and the wider Church, for this rich rite.

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