Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday: why not welcome them?

It's a well-worn Catholic phrase: "they only come to get something."

You know what I mean. Folks who storm the churches on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. A priest I know said it himself while trying to get folks to seat themselves in what might have been unfamiliar surroundings:

"It's our most crowded day...more even than Easter and Christmas."

I understand that. And I understand, in a way, the grumblings of the "regulars": where ARE they on Sundays?

But here's the thing: this is our big chance!

Yes, on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday, folks we've never seen in church are piling in in droves.

But is that such a bad thing?

A thought? Let's pray for those who creep into churches in order to "get something." 'Course, what they'll be getting—or so they think—something visible. Ashes, palms, what have you. Something, I think, that might just remind them—even if they don't really know it—what they've been missing.

So here's what I suggest:

This Lent? Why not pray for just one person who came into a church in order to leave it with that little smudge on her or his face? Why not "adopt a fallen Catholic?"

This is an easy one, actually. Because if somebody is urged (and may I suggest it might be our Invisible Friend, the Holy Spirit? Just askin') to creep into a church on Ash Wednesday, in order to receive that mark which marks him or her as a Christian? Wouldn't it be marvelous if that same person decides to come back again...and again...and again?

Let's not resent those who are on the (I believe) the verge of coming back. Yes, indeed, I know that ashes on a forehead aren't exactly the mark of salvation.

But maybe, in Her Wisdom, Holy Mother Church, lead by Our Savior, is giving a gentle invitation: "Come back!"

May God continue to bless you.