Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Me, Father!

Some folks might find it interesting I happen to be in the middle of a spiritual journey; I am converting to Catholicism.

So today is Ash Wednesday and here I sit with an ashen cross on my forehead. This is the first Ash Wednesday service I have ever attended, so it is also the first one in which I received ashes on my forehead.

When the service was over this morning, I wondered about the other people who had marks on their foreheads, whether they were going to work, school, shopping, or home. I wondered if they would have to explain to other people why they had a mark on their foreheads. I hoped their explanations would lead those people to a conversation with God.

I work with people of many different nationalities/cultures, so I expected some funny looks and questions. An Indian co-worker smiled when he saw me and said he thought I smudged my forehead with some dirt by accident. I explained to him it was a sign of a Catholic religious ritual. A Chinese co-worker giggled and smiled when she saw the ashes, so I explained to her as well. Eventually, I sent them a link to an article in my local paper about the meaning of Ash Wednesday. She thanked me, saying she learns something new every day. Other co-workers, many of whom are/were Catholic, and knowing I am in the process of converting, gave the "newbie" a hard time about the ashes, asking if I had changed the toner in the copier, etc.

One of my co-workers, whose mother is a former nun, said that I could wipe the ashes off if I wanted to. I decided I didn't want to, because while I try to wear the presence of my faith daily in my words and actions, today is a day when I wear a visible sign of the presence of my faith. I am proud to wear it as a small sign of witness and perhaps as a way to encourage others to re-connect with their faith, whatever it may be.

"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return."