Finding the meaning of Ash Wednesday in a darkened movie theater | National Catholic Reporter

Finding the meaning of Ash Wednesday in a darkened movie theater | National Catholic Reporter.

Jamie L. Manson has done it again – bravely sharing from the deep, dark places of the heart. Her latest column describes her frustration in the past weeks fighting the contraception issue in the US. In her fatigue, she first forgot about Ash Wednesday then intentionally refused to participate in the distribution of Ashes.

I had a similar experience, many years ago. A dark time in our local church coincided with the Lenten season. How I struggled to attend the requisite services – more for the sake of our children than mine. I know how difficult, how impossible, it can be to walk through the doors of the church when the hurt is raw. When the anger is fresh.  I didn’t need ashes strewn across my forehead to remind me of suffering.

I hope that many will read Jamie’s powerful and honest reflection. Perhaps you, too, can relate. It is also a reminder for us all not to judge those who are missing from the pews. Don’t assume that absence connotes a ‘bad’ or ‘fallen away’ Catholic. Absence can be a survival technique for those who truly love the Church, but need an intentional time of exile.

4 thoughts on “Finding the meaning of Ash Wednesday in a darkened movie theater | National Catholic Reporter

  1. I read Jamie’s article yesterday…she knows who she is and where she needs to go. Yes, when fatigued we need to move away and take a rest.
    By the way, people who know themselves do that best.


  2. So true! Another challenge I found was to let go of the guilt – so ingrained in our Catholic psyche. Sigh. Sometimes intentional distance is truly the life-giving thing to do.

  3. What is the meaning of ashes, really?
    As Eucharistic minister I have been involved over the years in the
    distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesdays. Many people love the wearing
    of ashes, it is very important to them. People not involved in Church
    at all will show up for Ashes, this has special significance to them.
    I have often wondered what this is all about. There must be a deeper
    meaning for some people that I am not getting.

    Lent for me has always been the Church’s annual retreat. The word
    “lent” itself means “spring”. Ash is dirty, earthy and a good
    fertilizer. But there is still more here for people than being signed
    with Ash as a way to reflect on our lives in light of our last days.
    Is it that people instinctively know that Ash is of the earth, and is
    one of the most fertile substances on the planet? Ash from my
    fireplace increases the pace of our growth of the plants in my yard.
    However, does the ritual of being sealed with Ash have a deeper,
    symbolic meaning? Is it the receiving of nutrients to increase the
    pace of growth for one’s interior life?

    Are people who come to Church for ashes, coming to be nurtured so they can grow spiritually? Are they vibrating as creatures to the ancient rhythms or the earth in spring? Do they know somehow that this is time to enrich the soil for new growth to occur within them? Is ash more about new life for some people than a reflection on death? Is this why they come to Church for ashes? Perhaps ashes are more about our deepest longings to be reborn;rather than, our need to repent for being human. Ray McCracken

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