Ash Wednesday

Ashes to Go

The distribution of ashes in the context of the liturgy points to the deep union of liturgy with all sacramental life, including blessings.

Francis the Luddite

When the late William F. Buckley set out to find a religion editor for National Review, he was careful to choose a Protestant. Though a Catholic himself, Buckley feared that his magazine—by then, already the flaghship of American conservatism—was becoming “too Catholic.” Eventually, he settled on a bombastic Lutheran minister named Richard John Neuhaus. Alas … Read more

‘Shall These Bones Live?’

“Remember man, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” — Genesis 3:19 Every Catholic just loves Ash Wednesday, just as every Catholic just loves Lent. Those were my thoughts as I slipped out of church, my brow smeared with that stark Catholic smudge. Passing the young priest in the vestibule where he stood … Read more

Lent and the Great Paradox

As eighteenth century English writer Samuel Johnson might have put it, “Nothing concentrates the mind like knowing that I am dust, and to dust I shall return.” And nothing is a more bracing reminder of that reality than the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Placed on the forehead in the form of the cross, … Read more

Benedict XVI’s Final Pilgrimage Home

Every so often we’re witness to a splurge of commentary about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as if the general populace is suddenly reminded that the man who resigned the Chair of Peter is in fact still alive. Most recently, reactions to a letter he sent to Massimo Franco of Corriere della Serra, in which the … Read more

A Lenten Meditation on an Unconventional Ash Wednesday

As I went to the local supermarket this Ash Wednesday, I was surprised by a table outside on the sidewalk with two men in clerical collars. The sign said it all: “Ashes to Go.” They were administering ashes to shoppers. I had already received my ashes from the priest at church, but I politely asked … Read more

While Only God is Good, Everyone Can Be Perfect

The sonorous start of Lent jolts with the reminder that man is dust and shall return to dust. It is hardly what we call news: before there were calendars and clocks or Donne’s tolling bell, Abel learned it when Cain struck him. Even the immortals of our civic pantheon and postage stamps were immortalized by … Read more

Lent All Year Round?

For several years, every Ash Wednesday, I witnessed a curious spectacle: an openly dissenting Catholic lesbian teacher I worked with attended her only Mass of the year, early in the morning, and sported her ashes on her forehead all day, in front of her classes. She fasted and abstained, and we noticed, totally confused but … Read more

And Also With Your Spirit

Thirty minutes from now I will stop working on this article and, with that strange combination of eagerness and resignation that animates mothers around the globe, prepare to pick-up my children from school.  Forty minutes from now, one of my children will grab their forehead, let out a low moan, and admit to forgetting their … Read more

Virtues of Restraint

Roasted artichokes in oil; garlic-pickled mushrooms; cipolline onions in balsamic; exquisite antipasti and exotic pastas; squid in ink — I am doing well out of Lent so far, thanks largely to an after-Christmas sell-off in a local supermarket. The proprietor is an Italian immigrant of some taste, who got it into his head that if … Read more

The Last-Minute Guide to Lent

If you’re anything like me, Ash Wednesday usually sneaks up on you, such that you’re scrambling to figure out what you’re “giving up” halfway through the first week of Lent — and then it’ll be something poorly thought out that doesn’t seem to do much along penitential lines. So for my fellow procrastinators, I’ve done … Read more

Ash Wednesday in the Public Square

Rev. Richard John Neuhaus long wondered about the phenomenon of innumerable Catholics, pious and not, practicing and not, who throng to churches at all hours of Ash Wednesday to receive ashes on their foreheads on the first day of Lent. He was unable to pinpoint a reason why the annual ashes exceed both the Lord’s … Read more

A Book I Want to Read for Lent

Brother Michael Gaitley, MIC watched the NCAA National Championship game at my house between the University of Alabama and the University of Texas. What a delightful man!  He came with his sister, Heather McGrath, whose husband Michael McGrath is on the board at Magdalen College.  Brother Michael’s book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself … Read more

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