The ashes marked on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday are powerful symbolism of penance for our sins, fragility and mortality. It’s a clear reminder of our humble beginnings that we are dust and to dust we shall return and the formula, repent and believe in the Gospel is an admonition to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. In the early church, the ashes were originally meant for penitents (sinners) to do acts of penance for the sins committed against God and the community. The Lenten practices observed were fasting and abstinence and the notion boils down into sacrifice. That’s why we abstain from eating meat, the main source of nourishment at least, in America.
In St. James, there’s a popular tradition of fish n fry sponsored by the Knights of Columbus on Fridays of Lent. The sheer joy and the welcoming spirit of the Knights, the aroma of the spices mixed with the fish n fry and the exceptional taste of it all is definitely a crowd drawer. Get yours before I get them all says the Pastor. Much as I loved to see folks coming into the parish hall between 5pm-7pm from different parts of the city mostly parishioners, sorry to say but only a handful showed up and attended the Stations of the Cross. I was like, where have all the faithful/penitents that crowded the church on Ash Wednesday publicly claiming to spend these 40 days in prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving gone?