Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2007

Ash Wednesday services remain popular

March 8, 2007

Church bells tolled again last week to mark the beginning of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, which is not a day of obligation to attend Mass, a record number of parishioners streamed by as I watched one priest and three lay people mark the sign of the cross on foreheads with ashes as they recited the old stanza, "Remember man that thou art dust and to dust you shall return."

A few years ago there was an effort to lighten up this sobering message, but now we are back to the old faithful words we have heard since we were children.

I am always amazed at the number of people who show up on Ash Wednesday. Holy days throughout the year, which are "holy days of obligation" for Catholics -- meaning that Mass attendance is obligatory -- are often passed over by many and the churches are half full for services. One wonders what compels people to attend this solemn service with its accompanying somber theme that life is transitory and in the end nothing that we consider so important in this life remains -- not even our bones. Lent offers us a time to contemplate just what we are about each day, to challenge ourselves to look at the dark side of our nature and to bring it into the light for healing at Easter.

Some profound philosopher said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

Lent offers us time and space to do just that.

While listening to National Public Radio on Ash Wednesday, I heard an incredulous story -- one of those that arises every now and then in the press. It seems that on Ash Wednesday in some other state, a lunchroom helper was clearing plates in a school cafeteria and claims to have seen the image of the Blessed Mother appear on one of the pizza trays.

Even more incredulous is the story from the documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." Put together by some enterprising filmmakers, the film claims an unearthed sarcophagus may hold the bones of Christ. Because of the names Mary and Jude also appearing on the sarcophagus, these filmmakers are also surmising they may have found the bones not only of Jesus but also those of his wife, Mary Magdalene, and their child Jude.

Of course, this is sure to inflame Christians everywhere to say nothing of what Time Magazine characterizes as the "showbizzy" appeal that is brought to such a venture. All of which leads me to believe that the "Da Vinci Code" certainly opened a Pandora's Box of everyone "Looking for God in all the Wrong Places" to paraphrase an old song title.

  • Speaking of light illuminating the darkness, what a game Kansas University played against the University of Texas this past weekend, or maybe I should say what a game Texas played against KU. Notwithstanding KU's win, which gave them the Big 12 title, most of the talk after the game was about the incredible Texas freshman, Kevin Durant. Even Brandon Rush, one of KU's star players had nothing but praise for Durant at the end of the game, with such statements as "It was frustrating." "When's he gonna miss?" "Is he ever gonna miss?" "Is he Michael Jordan?"

With 32 points overall, Durant, after re-injuring an ankle during the game, "even received a standing ovation in Allen Fieldhouse," according to an article in the Lawrence Journal-World, which also stated, "KU fans weren't standing and cheering. College basketball fans were." An incredible commentary on such a rare talent as Durant. Now, we only hope we don't have to play him again in the upcoming tournament. That's something to pray for during Lent.

  • A short note of thanks to all of those in Eudora who supported Daffodil Days, a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. By the time this column is read, my daughter Julie Stewart and I will have delivered daffodils to many of those who were kind enough to contribute to this worthy cause. Once again Eudora was very supportive, and $2,835 was raised to support the work of the American Cancer Society. The majority of the funds raised supports the research needed to ease the suffering of those now in treatment as well as to aid in the prevention of this disease which strikes so many of our loved ones. Thank you, Eudora.

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