Ash Wednesday. It is a draw, people.
Today is the third consecutive snow day here. Even though the snow stopped falling on Monday and all the main roads are clear, there are apparently several rural school bus routes that are still very slick and treacherous. So the schools are still calling off classes.
We took advantage of the clear main roads and our day "off" to go to a noon Mass for Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church, and yet Catholics who consistently ignore other holy days (including many Sundays) will bend over backward to make it to Ash Wednesday Mass. This is a celebration that marks the beginning of the season of Lent and during which we reflect on our sinfulness and our need for God in our lives.
So today, standing in the back with about 150 other latecomers in a very large, very crowded Church, I reflected on this phenomenon of attendance at a mid-day, weekday, optional Mass. Why do so many people brave the snow and cold and crowds to get to this Mass?
I think the answer lies in our deep hunger for God's presence in our lives. No matter how people are living or how much they neglect their faith, deep down people KNOW that there's a God-shaped hole in their hearts that needs to be filled, and Ash Wednesday just has a way of calling them back to fill that hole.
During Lent, many people do some sort of penance, or "give something up". The purpose of this is to remove some of the distraction of our lives that gets in the way of our relationship to God so that we may grow closer to Him. Giving up something helps remind us, in a small way, of our dependence on God. Every time we want that thing that we gave up and deny ourselves, we remember that.
Part of my Lenten penance is to stop complaining so much. My life is so blessed that I have really no reason to complain, so I need to stop. I like to use this forum to complain (which is probably why I don't seem to have any readers), so I'm limiting my blog time to once a week. When I do blog, it is likely to be a little more interesting and thoughtful and not so much complaining about the snow. And by the end of Lent, the snow will (please, God!) be gone for the year, so we'll just call this the end of our litany of the evils of snow.