Ash Wednesday Story
The following is a story about Ash Wednesday, how little a child knows about Ash Wednesday and the guilt that can be attached to not fulfilling one’s obligations. All this little girl knew before the lesson was that on Ash Wednesday, they put ashes on your forehead at Sacred Heart Church. Afterwards, well, that’s the point of the story.
The school I attended was called Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (after the church). Dad was a strict Catholic. Mom converted to his religion so we were raised Catholic. Our church was a beautiful cathedral. It’s many attendees were very proud of it, especially on Holy Days such as Ash Wednesday.
Since Ash Wednesday was a school day, all the children from the elementary school went to church together. I wasn’t particularly religious. On Ash Wednesday, I was looking for a way to get out of church services as usual. Church was dull, boring and pointless. I was always searching for a means of escape.
A friend of mine had attended midnight mass the night before with her parents. Back then, this was sometimes done for convenience sake on holy days such as Ash Wednesday. So, of course she already had ashes on her forehead. Aha! That gave me the idea of how to avoid the dreaded Ash Wednesday mass.
Quickly, I ducked behind my desk, lifted the top lid and began rummaging for a pencil. The pencil was swiftly rubbed between my fingers and “ash” swiped across my forehead. Immediately the little girl heart inside me was filled with the heaviest guilt ever.
I was about to lie to the nuns of the Church of Our Lady of Sacred Heart. Surely that was a ticket straight to hell! Not to mention that in order to pull this off, there would be multiple lies to the entire class and the whole family about my Ash Wednesday whereabouts.
The turnaround point
Oh dear God, what had I done? This would mean a life of guilt and an eternity in the fiery pits of hell for sure. The first person to see the ashes was a friend. This is the girl who attended Ash Wednesday services the night before. All she said was, “Oh, were you at church last night?, we didn’t see you.”
Now every other classmate had to be told the same bold faced lie about how I had attended the Ash Wednesday midnight mass. The level of guilt was at this point enormously hard to bear for a small girl. I was literally shaking in my seat.
Next the nun, who was our teacher called out, “Would every student who attended Ash Wednesday midnight mass at Sacred Heart Church or any other church please raise your hand?”. My hand went up, of course, but I was so ashamed at this point that my face was beet red. The nun actually came around and inspected us all to see that our ashes were intact.
Those little girl knees were knocking! My jaw dropped as the good sister’s next words rung out. “We will all be proceeding to Ash Wednesday mass now. Those of you who attended last night may stay seated while the rest receive their ashes.”
The whole charade was pointless, I had to go to church anyway. Arghhh!