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Ashes, ashes

Ashes, ashes February 17, 2010

Here are three Ash Wednesday posts that may be of interest.

The first is from Debra Dean Murphy who is on the religion faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan College and who I have gotten to know a bit through the Ekklesia Project. Growing up in West Virginia, I never heard an Ash Wednesday homily that connected coal dust, ashes, social sin, and repentance. I suppose that’s not so strange, considering the economic, political, and cultural power that “King Coal” has in the state. It’s also not strange because Catholics are still trying to shake out of an individualistic sense of sin. Thus, for many Catholics even today, Lent is a time to “shape up” one’s self only, and not a chance to turn away from social sin. Anyway, Murphy makes those connections and I recommend her post. Here’s a taste:

The ashes on Ash Wednesday remind me of the coal dust that used to cover my grandfather from head to toe, that used to settle in the creases of his face—a black, sooty residue that can give the face a comical appearance but which, I have learned over the years, is nothing to laugh at. Coal dust for my grandfather and for …the Sago miners and for countless others is a sign of a hardscrabble life at the margins of society.

The second is from Fr. John Dear, SJ, Lent and the Charter of Compassion. It’s the kind of reflection we’ve not only come to expect from John, but have come to savor because this church desperately needs his witness and others like his.

How can we mark Lent? While it’s good to give up sweets (and eat healthy!), I hope we can all make similar efforts during these forty days to join local campaigns of Lenten repentance and conversion to Gospel nonviolence. That may mean attending a weekly peace vigil, giving time each week to write to politicians and the media, meeting with local church leaders, or joining some national event to protest our wars and weapons.

Third, I posed a brief post at Rock and Theology discussing “ashy” songs for the start of Lent, and promising further reflection on songwriting as Lenten observance.


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