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Header-Why Ash Wednesday?Why Ashes?

 

Why Ash Wednesday? Why Ashes?

On Ash Wednesday Catholics proclaim their Faith in the public square as they go about marked with a black cross.

Still, as praiseworthy as it is for Catholics to uphold the feast of Ash Wednesday by making a point of receiving ashes, it can easily become merely a pious habit, "something we Catholics do."

Yet, like everything in our Catholic Faith, the liturgical feast of Ash Wednesday and the custom of ashes has a rich history, deep meaning and rich symbolism.
The custom initiated back in the early Middle Ages when repentant public sinners submitted to forty days of penance. The bishop blessed the hair-shirts, and the ashes which, after biblical penitential custom, were poured over the sinners' heads. In time, all Christians whether public or private sinners, wished to benefit from the practice.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent symbolic of the forty days Our Lord fasted in the desert. Occurring forty six days before Easter, it is consequently movable-as early as February 4 and as late as March 10.

The ashes applied to the forehead, made from the palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday, are blessed, perfumed with incense, and hydrated with a little holy water or oil as a binding agent. Thus treated, the ashes are considered a Sacramental.

 

Ash as a Sacramental

Though sacramentals do not ipso facto operate Grace as the sacraments, they are helpers to the sacraments in that they are visible, touchable, hearable signs that help predispose our souls to Grace.

Thus for example, when we enter a church,dip our finger in the fount and bless ourselves, we are making use of a sacramental, holy water, to place ourselves in a prayerful mode. With the right disposition, and a short prayer of contrition, holy water can even remit venial sin.

The Catholic Church is replete with sacramentals, holy objects, words and rituals that we can see, touch and hear to help convey to our spirit an attitude of openness to Grace.

The ash used on Ash Wednesday, accompanied by the words "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return," or, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" places us in a disposition of penance and humility, which is the attitude needed for a fruitful, Grace-filled Lent.

Sacramentals are specially potent when well explained to children who are so visual and touch oriented. They are a powerful means to convey the unseen mysteries of our Faith to their young minds.

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for September 28, 2020

We must practice modesty, not only in our looks, but also in...

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September 28

 

We must practice modesty,
not only in our looks, but also in our whole deportment,
and particularly
in our dress, our walk, our conversation, and all similar actions.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Wenceslaus

The jealous brother stabbed the king and held him down as ot...

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St. Wenceslaus

Wenceslaus was born near Prague in the year 907. His father was Duke Wratislaw, a Christian, and his mother, Dragomir, a pretended Christian, but a secret favorer of paganism. One of twins, Wenceslaus was raised by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla, while his brother, known as Boleslaus the Cruel, was raised by their mother. Jealous of the great influence which Ludmilla wielded over Wenceslaus, Dragomir instigated two noblemen to murder her. She is said to have been strangled by them with her own veil. Wratislaw died in 916, also at the hand of assassins, leaving the eight-year-old Wenceslaus as his successor. Acting as regent for her son, Dragomir actively opposed Christianity and promoted pagan practices.

Urged by the people, Wenceslaus took over the reins of government and placed his duchy under the protection of Charlemagne’s successor, the German Henry I. Emperor Otto I subsequently conferred on him the dignity and title of king. However, his German suzerainty and his support of Catholicism within Bohemia were vehemently opposed by some of his subjects and a rebellion ensued.

After the virtuous monarch married and had a son, the king’s brother Boleslaus, seeing himself displaced from the direct succession to the throne by his nephew, joined the rebellion. At the instigation of their mother, Dragomir, Boleslaus conspired with the rebels to murder his royal brother. In September of 929, Boleslaus invited Wenceslaus to celebrate the feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian with him. The king accepted, and on the night of the feast, said his prayers and went to bed. The next morning, as Wenceslaus walked to Mass, he met Boleslaus and stopped to thank him for his hospitality. Instead, the jealous brother stabbed the king and held him down as other traitors killed him. King Wenceslaus’s last words were addressed to his brother. “Brother, may God forgive you!” His body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of the murder.

Three years later, having repented of his deed, Boleslaw ordered the translation of his brother’s remains to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague where they may be venerated to this day. The martyr-king is the patron of Bohemia, Hungary and Poland.

Photo by: Ales Tosovsky

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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