Common Sense

The Real Meaning of Ash Wednesday

Imagine walking into a church, having your forehead rubbed with ashes and then someone telling you these sobering words: "From ashes you came and to ashes you shall return."

If that isn't a humdinger of a way to start your day, I don't know what is.

Yet for millions of Catholics and many other Christians that is Ash Wednesday, the holy start of Lent. And it’s a reminder, I think, that we all need to hear.

Trust me, I'm not trying to foist my Catholicism on anyone. Just an often forgotten reminder that we are only on this planet a short time. And while we are here, we should make a difference.

When I was a kid, my Irish mom always made sure during this season of Lent that my brother and sisters and I would make the appropriate sacrifice during these roughly six weeks leading up to Easter.

It was tough. One year I tried going without TV. Another, without snacks — can you imagine me without snacks?

But I digress.

Let's just say my Italian dad was less zealous. When I asked him one Lenten season what "he" was giving up, he replied, "I'm making sure your mother sticks to hers!"

The point was — and is — to be uncomfortable: to go without, in both small and big ways. To remember the vagaries of life and appreciate that among its biggest vagaries is life itself.

It comes. It goes. Sooner than you think. Ashes before you know.

It's good to be reminded in a world that obsesses on the here and now that the here isn't guaranteed much beyond now.

Know that. Live that. Remember that.

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