Pray Tell Poll: Ash Wednesday

Which of the two formulas for the distribution of ashes do you prefer?

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    1. In my (Catalan) parish, as the priest imposes the ashes and says to us, “Converteix-te i creu en l’Evangeli,” we rest the right hand on the gospel book.

      1. Are ashes imposed over the crown of the head or on the forehead of the face?

      2. It has just occurred to me that, though we’re not fundamentalists here, the gospel does imply both locations for signs of fasting: “But you when you fast anoint your head and wash your brow, so that your fasting will not be noticed.”

  1. I remember someone, in regards to “Remember you are dust…,” saying that ok, so we are mindful that we die… so what? The second option tends to fit the concept of metanoia far better, which is a hallmark of the season. Personally, I agree with that sentiment, but our pastor insists on “to dust you shall return.”

    As a side note, the Roman Missal III did change the text:

    Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
    Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

  2. Out Lenten theme song this year is “Repent/Arrepientate” by Jaime Cortez and the refrain is the first formula so that’s what we’ll be doing all day today.

  3. “Grace builds on nature” and I sense there is an ancient wisdom in the old formula. It begins at the very beginning, with human mortality, which must induce reflection in everyone who lives. Even the unconverted and the half-converted can hear this formula. The new one presumes more, and in our increasingly secularised world might be a step too far. Perhaps we should think of it as not an issue about the destination, but rather about the starting-point.

  4. I confess! I would combine and change them, and suggest the person respond with Amen:
    Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return. Turn again to God, and be a messenger (ambassador – 2 Cor 5:20) for Christ.

  5. So how about, “Remembering that you are dust and unto dust you shall return, repent and believe the Good News,: or “During this Lenten season, through prayer, fasting and works of charity, may the Lord help you repent and believe the Good News.” As a hospital chaplain who does a version of “ash and dash,” I found either one of those a good way to take into account what the day and season is about.

  6. When I bring ashes to the hospital I use both formulas, in the order “Remember … Turn away …”

    I go to the rooms — a priest handles the service for the hospital staff — and so I place the ashes on one person at a time in each room.

  7. As a side note….
    there is a parish here in DFW that distributes the ashes AFTER the final blessing! The Mass starts as usual with a penitential rite (even though the rubics clearly state that the imposition of ashes replaces the penitential rite). I guess he figures since the imposition takes place AFTER Mass he needs to do a penitential rite. After the dismissal, the ashes are blessed and then imposed and , of course, the people head out the doors.
    When I asked the pastor, he laughed and told me how he noticed many people left after getting the ashes instead of remaining for the Eucharist. So he decided to impose ashes at the end of mass to “force” people to stay for the Mass.
    Never seen this done before. This arrangement and its reasoning doesn’t square with me. I never seen people leave after getting palms on Palm Sunday, have you?? Or maybe that is because they “have to” go to Mass on Sundays vs Ash Wednesday?
    Has anyone else experienced something like this?? Maybe its a “Texas” thing but the pastor is from Manila!

    1. I remember that in the mid/late-1970s with a zealous pastor in suburban Long Island; he did the exact same thing with palms on Palm Sunday, and I know that particular practice continued for the next thirty years of his pastorate (being appointed before the ’83 Code, he had lifetime tenure until he retired).

    2. I have experienced it in a downtown parish in Washington DC in the 1980s. A high proportion of people who came for the ashes were non-Catholics, who, if they received ashes during Mass, would stay for the Eucharist (and make their first Communion). Ashes at the end and at other hours of the day made sense.

      It was a lesson to me how many Americans desire a chance to express their sorrow for their moral failures, when it can be done communally without standing out. Last night I watched the tape of a Congressional hearing held on Wednesday and wondered at the number of foreheads that bore ashes.

      1. Old fashioned calling out of penitents (there’s a reason Catholics migrated away from a Chapter of Faults for the entire faithful over the course of the First Millennium): at the 54:00 minute mark of How Green Was My Valley:

        Meillyn Lewis.
        Step forward.
        Your sins have found you out.
        And now you must pay the price
        of all women like you.
        You have brought a child into the world
        against the commandment.
        Prayer is wasted on your sort.
        You shall be cast out into the utter darkness
        till you have learned your lesson.
        Meillyn Lewis, do you admit your sin?
        Then prepare to suffer your punishment.

        Stop it! Leave her alone, you hypocrite!

        – Leave it now, Mr Morgan.
        – Sit down.

        How could you watch them? Cruel old men,
        groaning and nodding to hurt her more.
        That is not the word of God.
        “Go thou and sin no more,” Jesus said.

        – You know your Bible too well, life too little.

        I know Meillyn Lewis is no worse than I am.
        What do the deacons know about it?
        What do you know about what
        could happen to a poor girl when…
        when she loves a man so much that even to
        lose sight of him for a moment is torture?

    3. Joseph — I know priests who do the same thing for the same reason — shame on them! Clericalism at its worst!

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