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Header-Why Ash Wednesday?Why Ashes?

 

Why Ash Wednesday? Why Ashes?

On Ash Wednesday Catholics proclaim their Faith in the public square as they go about marked with a black cross.

Still, as praiseworthy as it is for Catholics to uphold the feast of Ash Wednesday by making a point of receiving ashes, it can easily become merely a pious habit, "something we Catholics do."

Yet, like everything in our Catholic Faith, the liturgical feast of Ash Wednesday and the custom of ashes has a rich history, deep meaning and rich symbolism.
The custom initiated back in the early Middle Ages when repentant public sinners submitted to forty days of penance. The bishop blessed the hair-shirts, and the ashes which, after biblical penitential custom, were poured over the sinners' heads. In time, all Christians whether public or private sinners, wished to benefit from the practice.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent symbolic of the forty days Our Lord fasted in the desert. Occurring forty six days before Easter, it is consequently movable-as early as February 4 and as late as March 10.

The ashes applied to the forehead, made from the palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday, are blessed, perfumed with incense, and hydrated with a little holy water or oil as a binding agent. Thus treated, the ashes are considered a Sacramental.

 

Ash as a Sacramental

Though sacramentals do not ipso facto operate Grace as the sacraments, they are helpers to the sacraments in that they are visible, touchable, hearable signs that help predispose our souls to Grace.

Thus for example, when we enter a church,dip our finger in the fount and bless ourselves, we are making use of a sacramental, holy water, to place ourselves in a prayerful mode. With the right disposition, and a short prayer of contrition, holy water can even remit venial sin.

The Catholic Church is replete with sacramentals, holy objects, words and rituals that we can see, touch and hear to help convey to our spirit an attitude of openness to Grace.

The ash used on Ash Wednesday, accompanied by the words "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return," or, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" places us in a disposition of penance and humility, which is the attitude needed for a fruitful, Grace-filled Lent.

Sacramentals are specially potent when well explained to children who are so visual and touch oriented. They are a powerful means to convey the unseen mysteries of our Faith to their young minds.

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for August 17, 2019

When you feel the assaults of passion and anger, then is the...

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August 17

 

When you feel the assaults of passion and anger,
then is the time to be silent
as Jesus was silent
in the midst of His ignominies and sufferings.

St. Paul of the Cross


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Beatriz da Silva

Her great beauty began to arouse the irrational jealousy of...

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St. Beatriz da Silva

Beatriz de Menezes da Silva was one of eleven children of Rui Gomez da Silva, the first Magistrate of Campo Maior, on the border of Spain and Portugal, and of Isabel de Menezes, an illegitimate daughter of Dom Pedro de Menezes, the 1st Count of Vila Real and the 2nd Count of Viana do Alentejo, under whom Silva served in Ceuta. João de Menezes da Silva, better known as Blessed Amadeus of Portugal and a noted reformer of the Order of Friars Minor, was her brother.

In 1447 Beatriz accompanied the Princess Isabel of Portugal, to Castile as her lady-in-waiting when Isabel left to marry King John II of Castile and became Queen of Castile and León. Although they had been close friends, Beatriz's great beauty began to arouse the irrational jealousy of the Queen, who had Beatriz imprisoned in a tiny cell without food.

During her incarceration, Our Lady, attired in the blue and white habit of the Conceptionist Order, appeared to Beatriz and instructed her to found an order in her honor. With much difficulty, she finally escaped her imprisonment after three days and took refuge in the Dominican monastery of Toledo. Beatriz lived with the Dominicans for nearly forty years without becoming a member of the Order.

Queen Isabel was a frequent visitor during those years and was of great material assistance to her former lady-in-waiting in the foundation of the religious order in honor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy. In 1484 Beatriz, with some companions, took possession of a monastery in Toledo deeded to their new community by Queen Isabel. The new religious order adopted the Cistercian Rule in 1489, bound themselves to the daily recitation of the Office of the Immaculate Conception and were placed under obedience to the Archdiocese of Toledo.
Beatriz da Silva died on August 9, 1492, ten days before the solemn inauguration of her new Order. She is buried in the first monastery given to the Conceptionists by Queen Isabel, the motherhouse of the Order in Toledo. In 1501, Pope Alexander VI placed the Conceptionists under the Rule of St. Clare and, in 1511, Pope Julius II granted them a Rule of their own.

Among Beatriz da Silva’s illustrious spiritual daughters are to be found two remarkable mystics: Madre Mariana de Jesús Torres y Berriochoa (c.1563-1635) to whom appeared Our Lady of Good Success and were given many revelations concerning the crisis in the Church in the twentieth century and the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda (1602-1665) author of the Mystical City of God.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

“Send for the priest!” exclaimed the dying soldier; “...

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Charity converts a dying soldier

“The religion that teaches such a charity must be from God.”

A certain soldier from the American civil war, once handsome and strong, lay dying in a military ward in Missouri. The sister of charity who cared for him, realizing that his end was near, asked him if he belonged to any church. On receiving a negative answer, she asked if he would consider accepting the Catholic Faith.

“No, not a Catholic. I always hated the Catholics,” answered the young man with whatever disdain he could still muster in his sinking voice. “At any rate,” urged the kind sister, “you should ask pardon of God for your sins and be sorry for whatever evil you have done in your life.”

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He answered her that he was sorry for all the sins of his life and hoped to be forgiven but that there was one sin that especially haunted and weighed on him. He had once insulted a sister in Boston as he passed her in the street. She had said nothing but had looked at him with a look of reproof that he had never forgotten. “I knew nothing then of what sisters were,” continued the young man, “for I had not known you. But now that I know how good and disinterested you are and how mean I was, I am disgusted with myself. Oh, if that sister were here, I would go down on my knees to her and ask her pardon!”

“You have asked it and you have received it,” said the sister, compassionately looking him full in the face.

“What! You are the sister I passed in Boston? Oh, yes! You are — I know you now! And how could you have attended me with greater care than any of the other patients? I who insulted you so!”

“I did it for Our Lord’s sake, because He loved His enemies and blessed those who persecuted Him. I knew you from the first moment you were brought into the hospital, and I have prayed unceasingly for your conversion,” said the sister.

“Send for the priest!” exclaimed the dying soldier; “the religion that teaches such a charity must be from God.”

And so he died in the sister’s Faith, holding in his grasp the symbol of our salvation and murmuring prayers taught him by her whose mild rebuke had followed him through every battle to this, his last.

Daughters of Charity in the United States 1809-1987 (New York: New City Press, 1989)

 

Click here for free "Book of Confidence"

“Send for the priest!” exclaimed the dying soldier; “The religion that teaches such a charity must be from God.”

 

 

 

 

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