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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 hairshirts, 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. Occuring forty six days before Easter, it is consequently moveable-as early as Februay 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 openess 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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DAILY QUOTE for October 23, 2018

The eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered...

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October 23

 

The eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
neither hath it entered into the heart of man,
what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.

St. Paul, I Cor. 2:9


Confession — a SACRED or a STATE Sacrament?

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. John of Capistrano

At seventy he personally led a wing of the army in the battl...

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St. John of Capistrano

Born in the Kingdom of Naples in 1386, John of Capistrano was a most talented youth. He studied law in Perugia, was appointed governor of the city in 1412 and married the daughter of a wealthy citizen.

Imprisoned during hostilities between Perugia and the Malatesta, he had a vision of St. Francis of Assisi inviting him to join his order and resolved to dedicate his life entirely to God. His marriage not being consummated, John obtained a dispensation and joined the Franciscans in Perugia. He was ordained a priest in 1420, and made extraordinary progress in his theological studies, while leading a life of extreme austerity. His master was St. Bernardine of Siena for whom he bore a deep veneration and affection.

Gifted with oratory, he preached extensively throughout the length and breadth of Italy attracting huge crowds wherever he went. He also helped St. Bernardine of Siena with reforms needed within the Franciscan Order. He was especially interested in helping the Franciscan nuns of St. Colette and with the Third Order Franciscans.

Frequently employed as ambassador by the Holy See, his missions on behalf of the Pope took him all over Europe. As Apostolic Nuncio to Austria, he helped Emperor Frederick III in his fight against the Hussite heresy and was appointed Inquisitor. He wrote many books, mainly combating the heresies of his day.

When Constantinople fell to the Turks, John of Capistrano preached a crusade in Hungary. At the age of seventy he personally led a wing of the army in the battle of Belgrade. Both his prayer and example were vital factors in the lifting of the siege. The infection spread by the decomposing bodies left unburied around the city ultimately took his life within a couple of months. He died peacefully at Villach on October 23, 1456.

He was beatified in 1694 and canonized in 1724.

WEEKLY STORY

A Rosary, A Coal Truck and a Mysterious Driver

Young Mary, who writes this story, tells us her family was g...

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A Rosary, A Coal Truck and a Mysterious Driver

It was a cold, wintry night in Ohio when homes used coal for fuel. 

One home had only enough to make it till dawn.

Young Mary, who writes this story, tells us her family was going through hard times as her Dad had lost his job.

As she sat around the kitchen table with her parents, there was talk that she and her eight siblings might have to go to the Children’s Home on the morrow.

They could only hope the relief truck would come in the morning. But there was no guarantee.

It was then they decided to say a Rosary.

As they finished, there was the rumble of a motor in the lane. The coal truck!

Mary’s Dad ran out to help unload. Back in, he remarked: “Funny, I've never seen that man, and he didn't give me a paper to sign or anything.”

That night they slept warm, and worriless. But next morning there was the coal truck again.

Mary's Mom informed the driver, a cousin, that they had a delivery the night before.

The cousin chuckled: “Mine is the only relief truck in the area…If you got a load last night, St. Joseph must have brought it!”

Mary’s family never knew who the delivery man was… It didn't help that they never got a bill.

Based on a story in 101 Stories of the Rosary  by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC

Click here for your free Rosary Guide Booklet

 

Young Mary, who writes this story, tells us her family was going through hard times as her Dad had lost his job.

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