“Hey, what’s on your foreheads? Are you guys monks?”
During the week of Ash Wednesday two years ago, Jeff and I were at a national camp conference in Atlanta learning new and exciting ways to improve Camp Gray. The conference was held in a large hotel with a coffee shop in the lobby and a glorious front desk made of mahogany wood.
On the evening before Ash Wednesday, Jeff and I looked up Mass times for the following day at the nearby Cathedral. We discovered that with the busy conference schedule, the only time that would work for us to get to Mass on Wednesday was at 7:00am. Of course, this meant we’d be spending the day surrounded by thousands of fellow camp professionals with ashes on our foreheads.
Surely most of you have had similar experiences. Perhaps you’ve also had random ash questions asked of you, like when we were asked later in the day if we were monks.
Tomorrow, of course, is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the arduous and humbling, yet joyful and adventurous Lenten journey. I’m quite the fan of adventure, and over the course of the past many years, I’ve grown to be quite the fan of the Lenten journey.
It wasn’t always so, of course, but over the years, I’ve recognized in myself the overwhelming need to have this special season. It’s a gift that we have these 40 days to right the ship, so to speak, so we may grow closer to the Lord. (Click here to read a more detailed explanation about the Lenten Season)
We right the ship by entering into the season with a game plan of ways to approach the three pillars of Lenten observance: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This all starts tomorrow, so get that game plan together – write it down even – and remember, we don’t wear the ashes as a prideful, “Hey, look at me! I’m super holy!”
Rather, it’s a humble “Hey! I’m a sinner! And God is so very merciful!”
In conversing with Camp’s Chaplain, Fr. Garrett Kau recently about the ashes that we’ll receive tomorrow, he said, “Just think of what is said when the ashes are given: ‘Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return’ or ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’ If the ashes are a reminder of that reality, it’s far from self-righteous prayer. I can think of tons of times throughout the day on previous Ash Wednesdays where I’ve inadvertently touched my forehead only to find ashes there and be reminded what day it is.”
So with humility, rock your ashes tomorrow, and if someone asks you if you’re a monk, I’d encourage you to take the opportunity to do some evangelizing. Tell them about the the journey you’re embarking on, and the goal for the end of the adventure.
Thanks for reading, friends! May God bless us on this adventure!
We’ll see you next week with a fun behind-the-scenes look at our Camp Gray Maintenance Crew!