For those who asked, or were wondering, Sunday's dinner went well. Although my parents have this habit of arriving early, when we're still cooking. I love them, but please, when I say come at 5, that means come at 5 or shortly thereafter. Not 4:30! We can't visit much when we're still cooking and busy with last minute things. And yes, we're totally informal and they are welcome to hang out in the kitchen (or wherever) while we're wrapping things up, but I don't like that!
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. As some of you may know, I was raised Roman Catholic. I went through all the sacraments, was pretty involved with my parish (even served as Youth Representative to the Parish Council), went to a Roman college, where I thought I'd meet a nice Roman boy, get married, have cute Roman babies and raise them in a Roman parish. And then everyone lived happily ever after. The end. I know, I'm oversimplifying waaaayyy too much, but aren't stories fun? :) Especially when, post-college, I didn't really go to church all that much. I guess you could say I was culturally Catholic at that point?
How things turn out! My "boy" was Byzantine Catholic, not Roman (well, he was Roman at the time, but didn't know it...this could get messy, more later). When I met him (and not IN college--the scandal!), I had never heard of Byzantine Catholics! When he described it to me, I thought he meant Orthodox, which I had heard of, and even had Orthodox friends in college, including one girl who's father was a priest. He kept saying that he wasn't Orthodox, that he was under the Pope too, but not Roman. I remember thinking, "Okay, crazy boy, whatever." He didn't go to church that much either, but all was cool. Later, I was fully educated and saw how one could be under the Pope but different. I might have understood, but me trying to explain it to my family and my friends? FORGET IT.
Fast forward a bit, we were married in the Roman church but for the most part, practice as Byzantines. Someday I will post more about that. I do feel at home with the Byzantines, and most of the time I don't miss the Roman church. Sure, I miss the familiar hymns (especially at Christmas) and I don't know Slavonic (an old church language; it's the Byzantine's equivalent of Latin, but not all Byz liturgies are said in Slavonic, thankfully).
When do I miss it? Ash Wednesday.
I know, it's weird. See, Byzantines don't get ashes. They don't celebrate Ash Wednesday. There's no leaving work early or coming in to the office late with ashes on your forehead. We shouldn't have to "show off" our faith/religion, but to me, there was something communal about walking around with your smudge on your forehead. Seeing other people with theirs and knowing "we're in this together." A college professor called sacraments an outward sign of an inward reality, and I feel like that could apply to the ashes. Maybe the "community" feeling comes from having attended the college I did, where faith was welcomed and incorporated into almost every moment of every day. (I say almost because certain things went on during the weekends that couldn't be included here ;-) but no worries, my college had a late night Sunday Mass which was often standing room only.) I sound like I was on my way to becoming a nun, but rest assured, I wasn't and still am not a saint. I swear. I drink alcohol. I drive too fast. I say stupid/mean/wrong things.
Now that I don't participate in Ash Wednesday, I feel weird when I see someone with ashes. Like I need to tell them that I, too, am Catholic. Perhaps I should wear a sign that says "hey I'm Catholic!" or "I believe, even if I don't have ashes!" Would anyone really care? Probably not, and I'd get some strange looks or comments from my signs. Maybe someone would ask why I don't have ashes, but have that sign on, and that would start a conversation that I don't feel 100% ready to have with a stranger who probably knows as little about Eastern Rite Catholics as I did when I met Turtle.
Does it matter who gets ashes or not? No. Does that really make one person or group of people better, more faithful, whatever, than another? No. Does it make me less Catholic or less believing? Absolutely not. This is coming from someone who went to ash distribution services religiously (ha!) every year. From someone who was scared of the "dirt" when she was little and couldn't wait to rush home after church to scrub the ashes from her forehead. But this someone still feels like she's forgetting to do something every Ash Wednesday. My forehead looks too clean...