There is a comfort in ritual and a familiarity that comes at the beginning of Lent. It doesn't matter what church I go to or where it is, on Ash Wednesday we sing the same songs I recognize and tell the same stories that I remember. Ash Wednesday was always an interesting experience growing up. We would get out of class and troop on over to the church as a school. After mass, we would all compare the size of the smug we had on our foreheads. At St. Brendan's, if you got Fr. Rento, it was a pretty big and dark smudge. Fr. Joe and Fr. Bill they went big but not so dark. And then there was always the visiting priest (we always had one around Lent), who knows what he would do. Granted, we were kids and so our foreheads weren't that big to begin with so maybe the smudges weren't THAT big. And so began the season of tuna fish Fridays :) . When I went to college it was upgraded to clam chowder Fridays.
So continuing the tradition, I went to mass this morning with all of the other "trying to go to mass before work" folk. I sang the familiar songs. I heard the familiar stories. I marveled yet again that on the day in which the gospel warns us to “[t]ake care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them" (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) we wear a large ashen cross on our foreheads.
The mass was simple but nice. I did enjoy the homily during which the priest this morning talked about how we all give up something during Lent but that we should also take something on. Do something actively during Lent. I hadn't really ever thought of that before and so maybe Lent will be a wee bit different for me this year. It should be interesting.