I had one meal and two collations and I was starving all day. I would not have made a good medieval christian. Though I was quite looking forward to hearing them say “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” when they daubed my forehead with ashes. I was to be disappointed though, they went for the very post-Vatican II “Repent and believe in the Lord” which really doesn’t have the same ring to it at all.
I felt a bit self-conscious trotting about my business with my ashes. The catholic church in Ireland has taken a serious hammering of late and it seems to me that there were far fewer people about sporting ashes. That evening Barack Obama was on the news and there was Joe Biden standing beside him with his ashes on. I got very excited, I said to my loving husband “Look, look, he has ashes, I was beginning to think that I was the only person in Ireland with ashes.” He coughed and said “Well, technically, he isn’t in Ireland, of course…”
Sorry, comment not relevant to your post really – just think the twins look fantastic n their GAA gladiator gear in the photos to the right. True warriors.
I haven’t noticed anyone with ashes since I was a child. Am I just not looking hard enough? And I thought the admonition was “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return” – or is this even older? Were you one of the naughty children who wiped off their ashes at the first opportunity or one of the good ones who took care to preserve them?
So, I had to turn to google to find the meaning of “two collations,” and was enlightened, as far as Wikipedia can be considered enlightenment anyway. I always do a bit of a double-take on Ash Wednesday, as it seems without fail I see one person (always just one, for some reason, a different person every year) with ashes, and my immediate impulse is always to tell them they have got something on their forehead and do they need a tissue. Luckily I’ve always been fortunate enough to have my brain kick into gear before that actually comes out of my mouth, and realize what day it is.
Now, as a Mormon and one who knows very few Catholics (not so many of them in Salt Lake City, as it turns out), I know an embarrassingly small amount about Catholic practices. Even what I’m sure are considered basic ones. So may I ask a question? I hope so, because here it is: I’ve always heard that Catholics choose something specific to give up during Lent (I usually hear things like chocolate, wine, etc), but I haven’t heard much about the fasting. Do you fast every day during Lent? As Mormons, we fast one Sunday out of every month, where we do not eat or drink anything (not even water) until the evening meal. This is always difficult enough, one day a month, so 40 days of that seems, um, daunting. From Wikipedia, though, it sounds like it’s not quite that harsh, as you can have the two collations (snacks, right?) and you can drink. Was Wikipedia correct or am I getting an inaccurate education?
Actually, M, Michael is kind of timid but Daniel wields a mean hurley.
Praxis, you’re probably right about the wording and, of course, I preserved my ashes.
OK, Kara, I definitely owe you as I am really enjoying the American Life radio show you recommended, so I will do my best on the fasting thing though I am not really an expert myself.
In the past (possibly as recently as until Vatican II in the 60s – this is when the church became all trendy and guitars entered the pews), I think it was fasting all Lent long with lots of fish as well. Now even fish on Fridays has gone and fasting as in one meal, two collations (so not exactly starvation rations) and no meat is only for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I don’t think even medieval Christians had to survive without water for the day, so it sounds like modern Mormons are tough (that’s what comes of being founded by pioneering types).
So, to summarise, Wikipedia was quite right. My loving sister-in-law has quite a funny post about Ash Wednesday in London where you would think that they might be a bit more knowledgeable about these matters – see here: http://queenofparks.blogspot.com/2010/02/ash-wednesday-and-iphone.html
Ooh, I’m so glad you’re enjoying This American Life! You seemed like the kind of person who would. . .by which I mean I think you have a good sense of humor and curiosity about the stories of other people. And thanks for both the information and the link to your sister-in-law. I really like her blog!
We had “dust to dust” in our Anglo-Catholic place but it was in the evening so no-one but Mr Spouse saw me with the ash on…
With my low church CofE upbringing I never heard of anyone getting the ashes mark or fasting – I think we might be supposed to consider it idolatry…
Our church’s Lenten activity was Children’s Society collection boxes – a penny a day or however much more you could spare. Those 40ps add up…
In reality Ash Wednesday meant that the kids at the RC school got a morning off and a grubby forehead.
Fasting is the meal/collations, abstinence is no meat or alcohol. In mediaeval times I think it also meant no sex; I am thinking of somebody or other’s complaint that her husband was so holy he wouldn’t perform on this or that saint’s day or either side of it and that this added up to most of the year. Eleanor of Acquitaine (re first husband) ?
Katie, anglo-catholics have all the glamour. Sarah, we had collection boxes too, never really very satisfactorily filled – parents always had to turn out their pockets at the end of Lent.
Eimear, I did once read a biography of Eleanor of Acquitaine on the urging of a friend but a lot of it now eludes me…sounds convincing to me.