Happy Ash Wednesday! Have a blessed Lent! Ay!

Some of the varieties of crosses one might have smeared on one’s forehead on Ash Wednesday

From our Bureau of Penitential Seasons with some assistance from Our Resident Expert on Catholic Ashes, Hermano Liborio Delgado De La Ceniza

Two feast days coincide this year: Saint Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. El dia de los enamorados y el miercoles de ceniza.

Hey, Catholics, it’s the beginning of the 40-day penitential season of Lent. Cuaresma in Spanish. Ay!

This Christian remembrance of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights is ancient, and its origins lost in the mists of time.

Oh, but it’s serious. Repent. Straighten up. Center your life on spiritual rather than material goals. Be mindful of what you consume. Self denial is good for the soul, as well as the body, and the world, too. Pray more. Eat less. Drink less. Give up stuff you like. Give more to charity. Be extra nice to everyone, even to those who make your life miserable. Tame your passions and appetites. Offer up your self-denial to God for the betterment of yourself, and for the betterment of the world.

This year, the rare harmonic convergence of Ash Wednesday with Saint Valentine’s Day makes Lent extra special. Self-denial is all about love. And genuine love always requires self-denial. Yes. Oddly, genuine love requires denying yourself, emptying yourself for the sake of others. It’s never easy, this denying yourself, this giving of yourself to others and to God. So, in their infinite wisdom, ancient Christians came up with the idea of limiting this penitential season to forty days a year.

Whew! Thanks be to God.

And the time these wise Christians picked just happened to be that slice of the yearly calendar when food was very, very scarce in the Northern Hemisphere. What a coincidence! . . Hmmmmm.

You don’t need to be Catholic to observe Lent. Anyone can do it, even those who are atheists. If you aren’t Catholic and show up at some church to receive ashes on your forehead, no one will ask for a membership card.

If you are Cuban, do it even if you aren’t Catholic. Give up something you like for forty days. Your fellow Cubans on the island are on a permanent year-round fast, imposed on them by Castro, Inc. Socialists and communists love to use the term “solidarity” in perverse ways. But genuine solidarity with those who suffer is a virtuous gesture.

If you do get ashes on your forehead today, think of all the Cubans who are hungry, sick, in prison. And never mind if the ashes smeared on your forehead are a sloppy mess, like some of those pictured above. Life on earth is a sloppy mess, and Cuba is far, far worse than a mere sloppy mess. It is hell on earth. The sloppier your ashes are, the closer you might feel to your fellow Cubans who still suffer in their tropical hellhole.

Leave a Comment