Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why I have a love/hate relationship with Ash Wednesday

I love being Catholic, there is no denying that.  It is who I am, I am Catholic and damn proud of it.

I love the Church so much that is actually pains me that people only show up on certain days and well today is one of them.  So many people think that Ash Wednesday is a Holy Day of Obligation but it's not, we don't need to go and get dirt placed on our foreheads but we choose to. It makes me wonder why people show up today but not on a Sunday.

As I am currently unemployed it makes my schedule for Ash Wednesday different from years past. For the past five years the only Masses I could go to where the 7am (oh dear God that's early) or the 7:30pm (much nicer of a time, and it has music) Mass, so I usually went to the evening Mass. Today I decided to go the 12:05pm Mass, as that's the time of the daily Mass I'll be going to and honestly I didn't expect it to be as packed at it was and I figured I could sacrifice the music part.  By chance my Pastor was saying Mass and I could tell that he was just as cranky as I was by some of the little things he did.

Side note of sorts: I got a Fitbit charge for Christmas from my brother and sister-in-law so I make more of an effort to walk to church every Sunday and my parents don't question it anymore as it's healthy vs me just being crazy.  It's only about half a mile to the church, so it's really not that big of a deal.  I try to listen to Christian music, most of the time it's Matt Maher, because he's my favorite Catholic- Christian artist, but I do it so I don't have a song along the lines of I'm Sexy and I Know It stuck in my head for Mass.  Today's songs were Jeremy Camp's Christ In Me and by chance Matt Maher's Because of You and both songs were perfect looking back on it.

The refrain of Christ In Me is "So come and empty me, So that it's you I breathe, I want my life to be, Only Christ in me, So I will fix my eyes, 'Cause you're my source of life , I need the world to see, That it's Christ in me, That it's Christ in me" As I walked along I kept thinking, Christ in me, that's an interesting concept.  A few other songs came on but I didn't really want to hear them, so I stopped it on Because of You. The refrain of Because of You is "If I shine it's because of You, if I love it's because of You, if I'm strong it's because of you, if I'm right it's because of You, it's all because of You."  I love this song as it reminds that I am nothing without God, which is a decent thought on Ash Wednesday when you hear, "remember you are dust and to dust you shall return" or remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return" if you went to our pastor. As Because of You ended I saw people walking from the parking lot towards the church and I said to myself, "oh yeah the public schools are off this week", then I saw a car illegally park by the yellow don't park here line and it went down hill from there.  It really didn't, but my immediate thought when I entered church was, where the heck did you all come from.

I am a regular Mass goer meaning I have my set area to sit in, I even have what I deem my daily Mass spot and all of those spots were taken, granted it was 5 minutes before Mass was supposed to start, but I was expecting the normal middle of the week daily Mass group and then remembered it was get something for free at Church day.  So I went to one of my normal pews but sat in the middle of the pew as those were open. Usually I sit on the end because I almost always end up having to serve in some sort of capacity, oddly today I didn't but I was very close.

I decided to start veiling at Mass as I have felt called to do it for awhile now and figured what better time to start than Lent.  So I probably spent most of my time thinking, I wonder who's thinking why is this thing is on her head; then I remembered that the older generation would know the custom  and my generation and younger would have no idea what it was that was on my head.  So with that thought out of my head, I started to notice the little things.

This Mass had no music, so that throws people off and to aid in the washing ashes off, we take the collection up before the prayers of the faithful, which is completely different from Sunday so it confuses the hell out of people.  From the beginning of the Mass, I noticed things that just showed how annoyed our pastor was.  Let me set the record straight, he's a wonderful man and priest, but let's just say some of the ways he says things don't go so well with those in the parish who don't know him well. I think I approached this Mass slightly differently, I wasn't expecting the usual annoyances of Ash Wednesday, but they slowly appeared.  By chance one of our youth ministry teens found me and sat with me, so let's just say we shared our annoyances.  So in my normal spot where families with little noisy children, which I kept thinking each time I head a noise, at least they are here and kids will be kids.  See, I'm not always judgemental, but usually I am.

Fr. Ray's homily was decent, I remember thinking, what is he doing to talk about this year.  The homily reminded us that Lent come about as a way for people to finish the walk/race with those preparing for baptism and to receive their sacraments at Easter.  I do remember him commenting on how fasting and giving something up isn't so that we can fit into our bathing suit in the summer or to loose a few pounds.  That's the added benefit of giving something up or so I think.  He went on to comment on how he knows we've all been complaining about the snow and how it's messy, a pain, packed down and just annoying and likened it to one of the best images of Lent we have because by the time Easter gets here, the snow will have melted, and like wise hopefully a hardened part of us has softened and melted at well.  Those are not his exact words, but the basic idea.

Mass continued as normal, with the blessing and distribution of ashes following the homily, and here's where the small little things started to appear.  We had five people distributing the ashes, so Fr. Ray happened to be smack in the middle as they were all up in the front of the church.  I know how he gets, so when I saw one of the two lay people free up, I jumped the line and went to them, as I knew those in front of me wouldn't, of course the young lady sitting next to me did the same.  Many times during the distribution we heard "move to your right, there are ministers over there."  Now I know why he said it and he was right, all of  a sudden there was a line for just the priest and in all honestly it doesn't matter who places the ashes on your forehead, and they are certainly not better if you happen to get them from a priest.  I sat there thinking "this is why they don't like you." as I head, "use the other side" repeated, but I also see his point and understand his frustration with the parish.  The rest of the Mass went on normally, there was no music so the responses were said.  People forget to sit after the prayers of the faithful until there was a motion to sit down.  I had already sat down, as well I do pride myself on knowing what to do.  I know how prideful that sounds, but it's true, I do know what to do and when to do it.  It was time to receive Communion and one of the kids in front of me seemed to not know how to place his hands to receive Communion so I thought "if you don't know how your hands are supposed to go, why are you receiving" and then I thought, "I offer this reception of Communion for all these who are here just because and that the graces they need are poured out on them."  I'm trying to do better with the whole judging people thing.

Mass ends, and before Fr. Ray could even kiss the altar and leave the sanctuary people started to bolt out the doors. So from the pastor we hear "You know usually we wait for the priest to leave before you do... it's kind of a Catholic thing."  I nearly said out loud, "this is why they don't like you," but instead I turned to the teen who was next to me and the two of us started laughing because we completely understood why he said it.  I get the whole lunch hour thing, but at least have the decency to wait until he's off the sanctuary. The thirty seconds it takes him to walk to the back of the Church won't make much of a difference.  

I love Ash Wednesday because it's when Lent begins and allows to stop and think about what I need to improve in my life, but I hate it because the judgemental bitch in me appears.  I take the time to go to Mass each week, to know the responses and to participate at Mass so yes it does annoy me when I have to deal with little annoyances.  I honestly don't mind kids making noise at Mass, they are allowed to talk to God as they can and I know from personal experience that you can't always get a kid to stay quiet no matter how hard you try; sometimes they sing "Mary had a baby boy and she named him Jesus" when the entire church is quiet and you just have to let it happen.  Worse things could have happened.  I'm trying to be more aware of how mean I can seem at Mass in the idea that I think, you should know what to do and if you actually came to Mass, you would know what to do.

In reading books on the Mass, I am aware that I have more insight into what the Mass is and I wish I had more than 4 Sundays a year to be able to pass that on to the majority of people who call themselves Catholic, but that's where grace and God come in.  God works in ways I obviously can't all I can do is pray for those that cause me have the hate portion of the relationship with Ash Wednesday.


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