Yesterday I cantored for the Lunchtime mass at the Cathedral, and by default ended up assisting with the imposition of ashes also. The dean used the traditional words “Remember, O Man, that thou art dust”, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to use that one for the ladies, modifying it to “Remember that thou art dust etc.” Although I was tempted to use it when Dr Tracy Rowland (dean of the John Paul II institute and author of this new book on Benedict) came forward. I thought she would get the joke. I chickened out, though! Failure of nerve on my part over all, I think.
But it was one of those occasions that really made me joyful to be a Catholic. There were about 600 or 700 people present by my reckoning, and they were of all ages (lots of children–why weren’t they in school I wonder?) and all cultures and all races and all classes. And they had all given up their lunchtime (and their lunches presumably) to come and receive the imposition of ashes as a mark to the start of their Lenten journey.
It reminded me of James Joyce’s saying re the Catholic Church: “Here comes everyone!”