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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Steve Hutchens

Well said, Father Tanner, and keeping, as is your custom, to the center of things.


I guess I have a little different take on this Ash Wednesday phenomena. When I see that Ash Wednesday has become an unofficial Holy Day of Obligation, I'm struck by what this means. It seems that even in our secular culture where everything is bought and sold, including me, and where there are few who "wear ashes on their hearts," I can't help but recognize that this culture has a deep need to say "I don't live up to what I want, I don't make myself happy, I am sorry that I'm not faithful to this cross on my forehead."

Believe me, the ashen forehead is the target of laughter, derision, questioning, and resentment much more than it is some sentimental consolation for the wearer. It's not comfortable to be looked at and treated like some archaic blast from the past walking down the street, ordering a Filet-O-Fish, buying the newspaper . . . everywhere you look there is someone staring at that Cross like it's a third eye on your forehead.

At the same time, it also resonates with people in a way that I can't help but recognize. In particular from some people—usually without ashes on their forehead—I always get a small acknowledgment that says "Yes, me too. I'm one of you."

In the end, I think that most people go to Ash Wednesday services because they recognize their own need and their lack of fidelity to what they believe deep down is true.

Fr. Victor

Fr. Ken,

Thanks for your Ash Wednesday entry. I pray ashes will be found in the hearth of my heart.

Wonders for Oyarsa

I miss those train rides we had together on the blue line. But not too much...

I'd love to catch up - send me an email some time -

Blake Walter

Thank you, Ken, for this encouragement to good works and costly sacrifice this Lenten season. Christ's resurrection would truly be worth celebrating if we could truly demonstrate that it makes a difference.


Thank you, Fr. Ken, for your meditation on Ash Wednesday.

Tony Esolen

Hello Ken,

It is good to hear from you again!

I too wish that there were more ashes in the heart, than on the head. Yet we can't underestimate the effects of the poison that the culture around us peddles. I was just speaking in my office to a young lady, the product of a broken marriage, who insisted that her Catholic faith meant a lot to her, and yet who could not imagine how a nation could outlaw abortion. The context? An argument about the college president's decision to ban the showing of the Vagina Monologues. My daughter, who overheard the long (and cordial) conversation, commented afterwards, "How thickheaded can a person be?" Yet the young lady in question is quite bright. Never attribute to malice what can first be attributed to sheer blockheadedness....

Bill R

Ken, beautiful meditation. It was good to find you again, thanks to Jim Kushiner's link on "Mere Comments." I'll be dropping by!

Best regards,
Bill R (Bill Reichert)

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  • God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
    — Paul

  • The promise of redemption bridges the gap between our present sinfulness and our original innocence. In Christ and through Christ, what once was lost can yet be regained.
    — John Paul II

  • If I can unite in myself the thought
    and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek
    and the Latin Fathers, the Russian
    with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion
    of divided Christians. ... If we want
    to bring together what is divided,
    we can not do so by imposing one division upon the other. If we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political and doomed to further conflict.
    We must contain all the divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them
    in Christ.
    — Thomas Merton

  • God, who became a lamb, tells us
    that the world is saved by the crucified, not by those who crucify.
    — Benedict XVI

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