Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Lenten Expectations 2021

February 2nd, 2021, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Pandemic Lent:  bulletin excerpts in several Diocese of Rochester parishes


Ash Wednesday

We are not allowed to distribute ashes in the usual way of closeness between the priest and recipient, even wearing masks. We shouldn’t use our hands without sanitizing them after touching each individual forehead. One solution is to omit the distribution of ashes completely. Another solution is to sprinkle ashes on the crown of each person’s head. Everyone would individually step forward, bow his or her head, and the priest would sprinkle the ashes on each head, without words. This is probably the form that will be used for this coming Ash Wednesday in the Rochester Diocese.


Retreats and Bible Studies

It’s important to have ways to grow in our Faith, and Lent is a special time to do so. But because of social distancing, wearing masks, and fear of contamination, many usual group gatherings will not be held this year. However, over the last six months, more parishioners have become zoom-enabled, so good planning and a varied selection of learning materials can still help a parish to offer spiritual value selections without everyone gathering in one place.


Liturgical Gatherings

For nearly a year now, there have been virtually no Entrance Processions, no procession of gifts, no recessionals. Again, there will be no Washing of Feet on Holy Thursday because of the need for social ‘distancing’ between the people involved. Unfortunately, that means (again) no Palm Sunday or Easter Vigil Procession, no Procession of Eucharistic Adoration on Holy Thursday and no processions on Easter Sunday. It is also unclear what alternatives there can be for lay participation without the appropriate passages made available for reading aloud, as in proclamation of Our Lord’s Passion and Death.

Nevertheless, compared to last year, which was worsened by lack of preparedness and knowledge and fear, hopefully this Lent and Easter will be at least somewhat better than all being lost as in 2020.


2 Responses to “Lenten Expectations 2021”

  1. militia says:

    OK–so I’m trying to imagine all this. The bald guys get ashes dumped on skin. Do they rub it in? Shake it off? Let it slip off into the empty pew in front? Shed it into their own pew as a surprise for the next occupant? Let it slowly dribble into their eyes, shirt, coat? For how long? Do they put a hat on to keep their ears from freezing and continue to find ashes in the hat for a few weeks? How many family members does it take before we’re still finding ashes at Easter?

    What about those with lots of hair? Should they carry the ashes around until they get out into the wind? Or back into the office, if they are going to offices these days, where they can fluff-off into a wastebasket? But those ashes are blessed, right? So the wastebasket disposal may be out. But a little-fluff off here, and a little fluff-off there, and we might lose the ashes without having to shampoo.

    Are the ashes headed to the upholstery in the car or living room sofa? Into dinner while its cooking? When we had ashes on our foreheads, they were contained and we knew where they were when we were ready to clean up, after a long Ash Wednesday, but those lurking among the hair follicles seem like they can shake off anywhere, anytime, to our surprise.

    Is it OK to try to reclaim the dispersed ashes and make them into a Sign of the Cross on our foreheads? Are we allowed to use the ashes from someone else like a friend or family member to make a cross on our foreheads or theirs?

    And here is the really big question: did any of the diocesan staff get ashes dumped on their heads or hair and live with them for a day before recommending for an entire diocese to bypass centuries of liturgical practice?

  2. Diane Harris says:

    I must admit that I had some sympathy for Militia’s questions and skeptical opinions about shifting a long standing practice with valued lay participation into what seemed an unnecessary break with a long Tradition. Then I heard an excellent homily before distribution of the ashes which changed my mind.

    Basically, I learned that distributing ashes atop the head is a long standing practice in Rome. I had previously witnessed a few priests receive their ashes on the top of their head and thought it was about being a priest; I did not know of the long-standing Roman practice.

    The second and third points made in the homily were from the Gospel. While it is acknowledged that wearing our ashes proudly on our foreheads has some evangelization value as Catholics, it is not quite consistent with Matthew 6:1, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

    The third point is made regarding Matthew 6:17 — “… when you fast [as we do on Ash Wednesday], anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting…” It seems that washing our faces includes foreheads as well.

    I would also remark that the procession for ashes appeared to be quicker than usual, yet solemn and meaningful. So, Militia, I offer these comments in the hope that everyone had a good experience, without a sense of loss.

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