The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Smile and say “Ashes!”

posted by jmcgee

Now I’ve seen everything.

I have a brief break between services on this Ash Wednesday, so I wanted to share this incredible-but-true moment from this afternoon.

It was our noon mass. It was, predictably, mobbed. Standing room only. During the distribution of ashes, a father carrying his baby came forward to receive ashes from me. “Remember,” I said, as I scratched a grainy cross on his brow with my thumb, “You are dust and to dust you will return.” Then he smiled and nodded toward the baby, indicating he wanted the kid to get them, too. Okay. I made a tiny ashen sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead, repeating the familiar phrase. And in an instant, the father grinned, and turned toward someone in the pews — the baby’s mother? — who was holding a camera. He smiled and posed with the baby as the camera flashed.

I can see the family album now: “Baby’s First Ashes.”



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Klaire

posted February 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm


Maybe it was YOU Dcn. Greg, and not the ashes!
I do have one question: Did the mother NOT get ashes so she could take the picture?



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Deacon Norb

posted February 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm


Last year on Ash Wednesday I was greeting folks as they left our jammed-packed evening Mass and a priests’ father who was a member of our parish stopped by to chat. I motioned him over to listen as I said in an almost whisper: “I know Fr. Tad is in Rome studying for his doctorate. Please don’t tell him about the crowds we have on Ash Wednesday. If he passes that on to some Vatican functionary, all of a sudden Ash Wednesday will become a Holyday of Obligation and then no one will come at all!” We both got a big laugh out of that. BTW: I just got home from this year’s evening Mass on Ash Wednesday and we has standing room only — but then again the students in our Public School Religious Education (used to be CCD) program also meets on Wednesday nights and they are the ones that plan and manage the liturgy.



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ron chandonia

posted February 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm


There seems to be a real mania for ashes, and not just among Catholics. Our parish, like some others in the Atlanta archdiocese, held a joint service with our Protestant neighbors. Seven congregations came together in the huge sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church (Martin Luther King’s congregation): Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists. This joint service (now in its 3rd year) seems to have awakened a real interest on the part of our Protestant neighbors in the liturgical calendar and some of the traditions that accompany it. In fact, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist distributed a pamphlet he prepared explaining fasting and abstinence and urging people to observe these Lenten traditions.
I’m not sure what draws Protestants to this particular tradition, but before ashes were distributed, our pastor reminded everybody that what they were receiving was not “magic ashes”–what matters, he said, is the repentance the ashes signify.



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Michele

posted February 18, 2010 at 12:25 am


The 8AM Mass at my parish was half full, the 12:15 PM lunchtime prayer service and distribution of ashes was PACKED, the 5:15PM Religious Education students & families prayer service & distribution of ashes was PACKED…I didn’t go to the bilingual Mass at 7PM…but it’s usually packed. I almost cried I was so happy- one of the women who attended the ‘Catholics Come Home For Lent’ 6 week session I offered at the parish that ended last Wed. came to the 5:15PM service and was in my line where I assisted Father with distribution of ashes…made my Ash Wednesday :)



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anthony

posted February 18, 2010 at 7:50 am


Not to spoil the Kodak moment! But it would be helpful to remind people that they should not present babies and young children to receive ashes. As far as I know the rule in effect is that:
“Baptized persons who have reached the age of reason may receive ashes. Babies and young children who have not yet received the Sacrament of Penance should not be presented to receive ashes because ashes are intended for those who are capable of personal sin.”



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted February 18, 2010 at 8:04 am


That’s good to know, Anthony.
Maybe next year, we could make an announcement to that effect at the beginning of mass. And the ushers can help control the stampede of people running out the doors, heading to the next church down the street…
After our 7:30 mass last night, as they were locking up the church, a man straggled in and poked his head in the sacristy. “Ashes?,” he asked, pointing to his forehead. The priest snapped: “Why don’t you come back at 1 am? Can’t you see we’re closing up?”
I grabbed a bowl of ashes and marked his brow. He thanked me and left. A few moments later, he returned, and found me and asked, “Are you really open at 1 am? Because I know my girlfriend would like to get ashes, too…”
I told, no, we’re not open at 1 am, but have a good Lent and a good evening, bye bye.
Meantime, I still can’t get over a woman who recently inquired about whether it was possible for her sick dog to receive an anointing…
Blessings,
Dcn. G.



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Deacon Joe Peters

posted February 18, 2010 at 10:28 am


Our masses in Western MA (where we have been closing churches) were also packed yesterday. It occurred to me that when we give stuff out i.e. Ashes on Ash Wednesday – Palms on Palm Sunday the churches are packed. It must not occur to people that we give out Holy Communion each and every day!!
Deacon Joe Peters



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cathyf

posted February 18, 2010 at 10:55 am


Hmmm… I certainly did not know that ashes were restricted to the baptized who have reached the age of reason. Everywhere that I have been the cathechumen have been “ashed”. And the kindergarteners, 1st & 2nd graders. (Our 2nd graders will make their first confessions in a couple of weeks — do they count as having reached the age of reason or not?)



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JValentinus

posted February 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm


Deacon Greg:
Why were you so annoyed with the straggler? Why did the priest say to come back at 1 am? I feel like I’m missing something here.
JVal



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted February 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm


JVal …
I wasn’t particularly annoyed. Just tired. I’d been at the church since 7:30 that morning, and it was nearly 9 o’clock at night. I’d served and preached at three masses and presided and preached at a liturgy of the word. The priest, on the other hand, was cranky and irritable — which, let’s face it, is not uncommon at the end of a long and tedious day.
But for what it’s worth: people can be insistent, and demanding, when it comes to the ashes. No matter how often we tell people that we are giving out ashes only at specific liturgies, at specific times, they still wander in at all hours and demand to get them. I had one guy come back for a second imposition of ashes, because the priest who had done it the first time hadn’t made a cross. He HAD to have a cross on his forehead!
So, for a lot of us, enduring Ash Wednesday is the first important act of penance for the Lenten season… :-)
Dcn. G.



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Reaganite in NYC

posted February 18, 2010 at 12:48 pm


Deacon Greg,
Sincere thanks to all the priests, deacons and others who put in a long, full day yesterday. I was a lector at the Noon Mass, and all the priests and the one deacon helped out. The church was packed with SRO in the back. About 8 hours later, I walked by the rectory on my way home from a meeting (about 9 PM), and I saw the same priests heading into the Rectory after the last Mass … and they all looked bone-tired.
Am sure you all know the old, tired line about what an “A&P” Catholic is? Someone who shows up only for Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. Oh well, at least they’re coming for that — it’s better than not ever coming at all.



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wineinthewater

posted February 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm


Anthony,
As I understand it, the 1917 Code of Canon Law restricted ashes to the baptized. But the current Code states:
Can. 1170 Blessings which are to be imparted first of all to Catholics, can also be given to catechumens and even to non-Catholics unless there is a prohibition of the Church to the contrary.
There isn’t a prohibition of the Church to the contrary, so that means that children and the unbaptized can receive ashes. No reason for Deacon Greg to turn anyone away next year. ;)



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Deacon Walt Biri

posted February 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm


Deacon Greg,
I got a call yesterday from a homebound parishneer lady who just had to have ashes for her and her mother. So I did what any good deacon would do, I brought ashes and signed their forhead with a cross. Oh I also brought Holy Communion too.



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anthony

posted February 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm


Wine in the water:
I think the important line is: unless there is a prohibition of the Church to the contrary.
Which on a practical level means the local bishop for this custom.
What I repeated above is the directions given in this diocese.
I do not see it as refusing to give ashes, but it is an important symbol of the church… for those who are entering the Lenten journey with the church to the paschal mystery. It is not a generic symbol, and if it gets watered down too much it ends up meaning little or just becomes superstitious.
The challenge is to keep the symbol meaningful and rooted in the Lenten journey that one is starting with the church and not just a personal devotion. IMHO
cxv6hq



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wineinthewater

posted February 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm


Anthony,
I would wonder if a single bishop can really create “a prohibition of the Church” on his own. But regardless, if that is his instruction, then that is what stands in his diocese.
Personally, I don’t see it as protecting the symbol at all to restrict it. I think the restriction is actually what would dilute it. In the adult, repentance is part of the conversion that leads to baptism. And while children may not have the same culpability for their sins, they do still sin. So I think that extending this sacramental to the unbaptized and children is a clearer expression of the symbol.
But that is just my own opinion and I don’t get to make the rules. ;)



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Tina

posted February 18, 2010 at 6:17 pm


You forget that you don’t need to be in a state of grace to receive ashes. You do need to be in a state of grace to go to Communion. So for people who aren’t in a state of grace…it is a way for them to “get something”
It’s also good to identify potential Catholic mates :)



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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted February 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm


At Mass yesterday, our Bishop was the presider and my husband was the deacon. A man was carrying his little girl (about two years old) and both he and his daughter were given ashes. Then at communion time, I was standing behind the man again as he carried his daughter up the aisle. I smiled at her as she looked over her dad’s shoulder, but she never made eye contact. Her eyes were locked about an inch above my eyes, square in the middle of my forehead. She stared at my ashes all the way up the aisle, and all the way back after her dad (and I) received communion. By the way, the Bishop didn’t hesitate to administer ashes to everyone, regardless of their age.
I certainly hope that gentleman who asked to receive ashes yesterday wasn’t put off by the response of the priest – who knows if he had been trying to gatgher up the courage to come in and ask. I hope he’ll be back….



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jack schrenker

posted February 18, 2010 at 11:30 pm


In the fall of 1959 I went aboard the USS Forrestal, as an unrated member of the ships company, very upset with the idea the ship would be going to the Med in February, and I would be separated from the girl I wanted to marry. Sunday prior to departure from Norfolk, VA. I visited the baker who told us about the going away party he attended the prior evening. He explained to some of the attendees that he was not making a Med cruise, but rather a tour of Southern Europe. Our first port of call was Nice, France, on a Tuesday. I was in the one half of the ships company who would get liberty on Wednesday. Those who went on Tuesday, talked about the great time they had at the street party and who everyone was so friendly. We went on Wednesday to enjoy the same friendly street partly, only to find the town totally dead. What a bummer. Sunday at Mass, Fr gave the sermon, all about how this was the first Sunday of lent.
I was able to visit many areas of Europe during the next five months, taking advantage of every tour that was offered.
To this day, I am thankful for this opportunity.



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jack schrenker

posted February 18, 2010 at 11:54 pm


What did I do on Ash Wednesday in 2010, as a lay minister to the sick, and extra ordinary minister of Holy Communion and NOT a deacon. I only a Visited to homebound, one is near death, so pray her passing is peaceful, one is just unable to get around, even though she is only 93. Also a group home and to have a service for staff and visitors at the local hospital. Our pastor had given us an extremely small pray to say prior to the distribution. This pray I did not like, so I took advantage of the internet, and found the liturgy for distribution of Ashes. When I arrived at the hospital for the noon service, a couple who had conducted the service in the morning, were surprised at the beauty of the liturgy I was using.
The three of us enjoyed lunch together, and the secretary in the Pastoral Care office informed us that we needed to be back for the service at 3 PM There went my afternoon for constructive employment type work. But the look on their faces when they received the ashes, made the return trip worthwhile.
God Bless all who do ministry in any manner for the people.



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JValentinus

posted February 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm


“I certainly hope that gentleman who asked to receive ashes yesterday wasn’t put off by the response of the priest – who knows if he had been trying to gatgher up the courage to come in and ask. I hope he’ll be back….”
You never know what someone’s intentions are, and it’s responses like this that have turned me off to the Church. Unlike today, the Catholic Church I knew when growing up taught me to see Jesus in everyone . . . God save this priest if the late man was Christ or one of his angels in disguise.



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