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Dear Friends,

As I mentioned in last week's column, I would repeat the entire column about Ash Wednesday in the event some did not get a chance to read it. I did, however delete the attempts at humor found in the first paragraph, although I was tempted to say something about the Sunday storm which drastically reduced the already-reduced in person congregants. Maybe sunshine and warmth will return one day soon.

Wednesday of this week is Ash Wednesday, which will be unlike any Ash Wednesday we have ever experienced. In the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah we read, "On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the Israelites gathered together fasting and in sackcloth, their heads covered with dust." (Nehemiah 9:1). This would have been the ancient rite of penance and the dust would be the equivalent of ashes. Thus the saying used on Ash Wednesday, "Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return." It would be sprinkled on the head. The reason I mention this is because we are accustomed to the imposition of ashes on the forehead but in many European countries, such as Italy and Poland, the ashes imposed on Ash Wednesday are actually sprinkled on the head and not on the forehead. But the meaning behind the custom remains the same-it is a sign of our repentance of our sins and the interior disposition to turn away from them and live more fully and faithfully the Gospel.

In light of the Covid pandemic, and to avoid the touching that imposition on the forehead would entail, the Vatican has suggested the worldwide use of the sprinkling on the head, without touching. Some parishes may choose to impose the ashes on the forehead, using a cotton swab for each individual worshipper, but here at Mount Carmel we will follow the Vatican suggestion and sprinkle the ashes on the head.

A second change will be the formula which accompanies the imposition. In the past either one of two different formulas was used for each individual worshipper, either "Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return," or "Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel." To reduce the risk of spread, the Vatican has decreed that the formula be said only once, at the beginning, and not repeated over each individual recipient. In accord with that directive, the ashes will be sprinkled in silence.

I am sharing this with you now so that you can make a decision as to whether you want to come in person to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. As in the past, ashes will be distributed according to the sprinkling method at the four usual masses on Ash Wednesday, 6:30 & 8:30AM, 12:00 noon and 7:30PM, following all the protocols usually in place for weekend masses. In addition, we are making a video of an Ash Wednesday service (not a mass) which will be posted online. In addition, we will put online an At Home Service which you can download and print to conduct your own service with your family. Whichever you choose to do, the video or the At Home Service, while you can do either at any time on Ash Wednesday, we are suggesting that a family or individual do so either in the morning, around 9:30AM or in the afternoon around 3:30PM. You may then come down to the church for the imposition of ashes without any service. To make that clear-ashes will be distributed in the church between 10:00AM-11:00AM and again in the afternoon between 4:00PM-5:30PM. There will be no service associated with this distribution. (As I said at the beginning-an Ash Wednesday unlike we have ever experienced). Registration will be needed for the Ash Wednesday masses. To register, follow the directions shown below. No registration is needed for the simple distribution of ashes during those hours mentioned above.

One does not change a centuries old custom without some questions. Please feel free to email me any questions you have and I will try to answer them in a timely manner. As I promised, last week s column has now been repeated.

Be well, be safe and God bless, Fr. Ron

PS. Please consider a pledge to the Annual Appeal, if you have not done so already. Brochures and envelopes are on the table as you leave church today. Perhaps you could make it part of your Lenten sacrifice.

 

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