Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday - Penance

I was once told that more Catholics attend Mass on Ash Wednesday than on Christmas or Easter.  While I am not sure that this statement is true, I certainly understand why some people may cling to this tradition long after they have shed all other vestiges of the faith.  The ashes are an outward sign of repentance before the Lord and the concept of penance resonates deeply within the hearts of all humanity.  Although our society often teaches us to shift all blame away from ourselves, to instead place it on our parents, on our education (or lack thereof), on the media, or on the influence of others, there is a sense of peace that comes from taking responsibility for our shortcomings.  Only by acknowledging our sins can we truly be free of them.

Although I don’t go as often as I should, I have never taken the sacrament of penance for granted.  This is not to say that confession is ever easy.  Like most Catholics, the minutes and hours leading up to the moment I step into the confessional are full of anxiety and doubt.  My grandfather entered the Catholic Church in December 2010 at the age of 79.  When he was baptized, he was cleansed of a lifetime of sin.  When I asked him to explain what he felt, he told me that he felt as if a great weight was lifted from his shoulders and all his cares evaporated.  I experience this on a smaller scale every time I leave the confessional.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality. On Easter, we will celebrate with joyful hearts the resurrection of the Lord.  But first we must meditate on his death, for without his great suffering, there would be no reason for joy.  May this Lent be a solemn and contemplative season that brings you closer to Christ.

Linking up to Catholic Blog Day Ash Wednesday post on Penance.


  1. I love lent,  I actually look more forward to it than advent. Christmas has gotten so commercialized but, lent will always remain distinctly Catholic, and it always renews my spirit =)


  2. I would believe this. When I returned to the Catholic Church a few years back, it was on an Ash Wednesday. I'd been away from any Christian church for a long time, then I was drawn back to Christ, but I still resisted the Catholic church. Then, on Ash Wednesday, I just had to go. I didn't miss a Sunday except for serious illness since then.

  3. :-) I know what you mean about the relief of confession. Adam and I go every two weeks - which has taken away a lot of the anxiety. Now that confession is part of our routine, I've actually come to look forward to it. God loves my sins, my mistakes, my screwups - He loves my humanity. I can't damage Him, but I can seek to be closer to Him - so He loves my penitence even more!

    I like this post, and I believe that Ash Wednesday is more attended than Easter. I even know some non-Catholics who get their ashes on Ash Wednesday, because our sacramentalism gives a tangible experience that many denominations lack.

  4. Wow that was pretty amazing 

  5. That's so interesting. What was it about Ash Wednesday that called to you?

  6. We should go to confession more often, that definitely would take some of the nerves away! And I always feel less likely to sin when my soul is clean, so confession more often would help in that way as well!

  7. I think it was because it's the beginning of Lent, the time of penance, and I had a lot of things I wanted to ask God to forgive me for.


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