I meant to get to bed just after ten last night, but I was up late writing my last entry and talking to my aunt about iPods. I was tired, but once I bed I still couldn't get to sleep. This morning, I woke up around five and dozed on and off until almost six. I got up, got clean, and headed to Mass. Today is the Day of Ashes, which seems like a really good time to really start trying to be better at meeting my obligaitons.
I'm glad I went. After a lot of discussion with people about disappointing homilies, I was treated to an excellent one. I said to Trevor, today, that since the liturgy surely isn't going to change much any time soon, the Church needs to focus on the thing that can really address its flock: the homily.
So, I was glad to feel like I really was addressed, today. The priest (I'm still not sure who is who yet, sadly; I think it was Fr. Tom) said something like this: "I know many of you remember the 'good old days' when the Church asked us to perform our Lenten fast on every Wednesday and Friday of Lent, not just Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Today, I am inviting you to participate in the fast, for all those days, and all of Lent. I extend this invitation to all of you, and to the children as well, although it is not a fast of obligation. The fast I'm proposing, though, is not about what goes into your mouth, but what comes out of it. For our fast, we will say nothing ill about our neighbors at all.
He talked about how we feel triumphal about succeeding in the fast, but that Jesus had no special affection for the thin. He had a good quote about how speaking no evil was a fitting self-mortification. He upbraided us for finding our neighbor's life more interesting when he's arrested than when he has great success. He even related this to Clinton, who got more attention for his infidelity than his peace efforts. This was a pleasant surprise, when the Church seems to list ever more rightward. "I cannot guarantee you that at the end of this fast you will weigh any less, but your heart will be lighter."
During Mass on the Day of Ashes, the congregation goes to the front twice. The second time is the usual procession to receive the Eucharist. The first, of course, is for the ashes. The priest makes a mark on your forehead in the shape of a cross. It's a symbolic act with many meanings; it serves as a reminder that we die. He says, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospels." It was a good Mass.
(footnote: The formula on the application of ashes before Vatican II was, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return." I like that one, too.)