Yesterday’s Ash Wednesday Liturgy at Presentation High School was a beautiful thing. Eight hundred young women in formal dress uniform exuberantly singing an old Protestant hymn, Amazing Grace. The gym was filled to capacity- standing room only. The homily was delivered by a woman- our own resident bible scholar, Claire Foley. Peer ministers doused their fellow students with ashes. A slide show highlighted one of our Sisters of Presentation, Sr. Rachel Pinal, who works as a missionary in Somotillo, Nicaragua. The liturgy kicked off our Mission Drive month, raising money to support our Sisters of Presentation working for peace and justice in South America.
No wonder Pope Benedict is resigning. This old church ain’t what it used to be!
However, in the faculty room over lunch one would never have known that we have progressed this far as Catholics. People were still talking about “giving something up” for Lent. I assumed we were a more enlightened and progressive Catholic faculty. Is it really that simple?
During Lent, the forty days and forty nights culminating in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we are called to conversion, reconciliation, mercy, grace, self reflection and humility. How do you get there by giving up candy?
I’m just sayin’….
But the most amusing thing for me as the Senior Class Counselor was one of my naughtiest students carefully tracing a cross of ashes on my forehead and advising me to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”.
My life is plaid.
Yesterday I had some minor surgery on my eye and was forced to take it easy- not something that comes naturally to me. I watched the news about children freezing to death in Afghanistan and then moved on to the updates of the Republican primary debates with the candidates manipulating every tactic and maneuver to make points with people who are vulnerable to their potential leadership. I then continued where I left off watching Breaking Bad– a series on netflix- the main character, Walter, dying of lung cancer and making moral and ethical decisions based on the short amount of time he has left to live.
I felt vulnerable and anxious watching all this despair, confusion and sadness.
Today I attended the noon liturgy at Mission Santa Clara in order to celebrate Ash Wednesday and receive my ashes. The message from Fr. Jack Treacy was comforting and refreshingly counterculture. “Ash Wednesday is the most populated day of the year here at the Mission! There is a longing in our hearts to re-establish our relationship with God and gain a deeper understanding of our Catholic faith and our commitment to one another in our community.”
Quite a contrast to the latest news reports and who is spending the most money on their campaigns and for what purpose.
As we received our ashes we were reminded “You are dust and to dust thou shalt return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” What am I doing with my life in this limited time I have on earth? What am I called to do or be during this lenten season?
I love the liturgies at the Mission Santa Clara. My friend, Rosemary, plays the clarinet for many of the Masses. We have been friends for 30 years. That’s what you call community. We did music together at St. Mary’s of the Assumption in Whittier, California when we were both newly married. Life evolved and both our families ended up in Santa Clara County. Our friendship has grown through many transitions- not always smooth and carefree. But it’s the commitment to our friendship that is foremost.
My relationship with my Catholicism is not perfect. I come to receive my ashes. I accept my mortality and my sinfulness and I long to be a better person and make a difference in the world. I am called during this Lenten season to be uncomfortable and aware. To fast, pray and give of myself and my gifts.
I will pay due diligence to my privilege to vote for the future president of my country.
But I find great comfort in knowing that my life has meaning and purpose because of my God.