Sunday, October 3, 2010
The (Other) L Word
So, I went to get ashes on Ash Wednesday. Ever since I was a young Catholic school girl, There was something about Ash Wednesday and the ritual of the black smudge on the forehead that made me feel serious and holy. "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return," the priest would intone as he rubbed a vigorous thumbful of ashes onto my freckled forehead.
As a child, I would rush home after getting my ashes in order to examine the results closely in the mirror. The ashes were supposed to be in the shape of a cross, and sometimes, if one was lucky, a nice clear, black cross was evident. But sometimes all you got was a grayish smear, often looking like you were just shot in the head with a bullet. When my ashes did not pass my own critical muster, I went to the fireplace in my livingroom, got a handful of fire ash and carefully improved my cross. I would not wash my face that night either.
Now I am grown and still, I find an irresistible mystique to the Ash Wednesday ritual. So I went. When my turn came, I closed my eyes in a reverential sort of way and felt a measure of satisfaction when I felt the strong thumb of the minister make an unmistakable cross on my head. I said a quick prayer and left for home. My daughter looked up from her homework as I walked in the door.
"Hi," I said, dropping my bag on the bench. Her eyes grew wide as she stared at the place just above my eyebrows. She started laughing out loud. "What's so funny?," I demanded. "Look at your forehead in the mirror," she smirked, wiping tears from her eyes. I went into the bathroom with some trepidation. There, as clear as day and nicely etched, was a large "L" smack in the middle of my forehead. Two arms of the so-called cross had obviously worn off.
Was this some cruel joke? Did God (or at least the minister) really think of me as a BIG LOSER? I am philosophical. The Father in Heaven wanted to cheer up a gloomy teenager and entrusted this worthy task to His valued servant - me. I am honored. Really.