Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday are burned. In the liturgical practice of some churches, the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens(one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized), though some churches use ordinary oil. This paste is used by the priest who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his own forehead and then on each of those present who kneel before him at the altar rail. As he does so, he recites the words: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Tonight I will be in my parish church for a very traditional Ash Wednesday service - High Mass with music and incense and fine vestments. I' certin it will be a lovely liturgy, but meanwhile, my friend Bertie will be at a transit station here in San Francisco, bringing ashes to the people - bringing the Good News to the people! He will hopefull be joined by a number of others. I wish I was able to also be there!
Thanks be to God for the witness and ministry of Father Bertie!