Today is Ash Wednesday...although this is not my "Memory Monday", I do have some very distinct memories of being Catholic during Lent...especially Ash Wednesday so I thought is would be appropriate to write today. Living in a predominately Protestant community in the 40's-50's, many of the traditions of the Catholic Church, when the mass was said in Latin, were considered somewhat bizarre! One tradition was the symbol of the ashes placed on one's forehead.
When we moved to Mississippi in the '70's, we lived in a very small town, where being Catholic was even more of a minority than where I grew up in Illinois...This was the "Bible Belt"...capital B! And the Catholic Church we attended was considered a missionary church because it was so small and we had to share our priest with two other churches.
I remember one Ash Wednesday, we had a late afternoon service with just the kids...about 15 of them. The priest at the time, Father Joe, was a wonderful man...loved his job and loved the kids! He had devised an Ash Wednesday Service whereby the kids would all write down their wrong-doings on paper, then we actually burned them on the altar in a container, and when they cooled down, he used these ashes for their foreheads. Well, he was quite generous with the sprinkling of the ashes to the point that the ashes spread down their faces and clothes! About that time, the back door of the church opened, a workman who was to do some repairs poked his head in. The kids all turned to look at who was there...the man looked very shocked and said "Oh, my Lord! What are you doing to those children???" I am sure the smell of burning paper and all those little blackened faces were rather shocking! Fortunately, we were able to explain to him what was going on, but that is the way ridiculous rumors get started!!