In this time of year (2)

I have developed an aversion to being where other people are on Ash Wednesday.  I’m not sure exactly why this is, but it’s probably for one or more of these reasons:

  1. The ash-mark-on-forehead symbol is not in my world of experience and is neither a habit nor an interest of mine.
  2. Although I’m confident that some choose and accept the ashen symbol very sincerely, I’ve never been sure how to respond (or not) to those who use it.
  3. I don’t want anyone to think I am disinterested in Jesus because my forehead lacks a dark mark.

Speaking painfully candidly here:  I confess the need to be more interested in Jesus—more devoted to the memory and meaning of His singular suffering, yes—but beyond that, more devoted to hearing, learning from, and following Jesus.  Otherwise, how will my son (or anyone else) have any idea?

Opening post from this seasonal series:


4 thoughts on “In this time of year (2)

  1. Ernest Shipe 04/13/2017 / 12:06 pm

    I came across your site while seeing if I could locate my husband’s blog/column, Ernestly Speaking ‘ on the internet. He posts on Facebook ( and has used that title since the mid 80’s.). He is interested in dialoguing with you.


    • Brian Casey 04/14/2017 / 7:55 pm

      I’d be pleased to correspond with him, I’m sure. Thanks for the note.


  2. Ernest M. Shipe 04/21/2017 / 3:09 pm

    Brian, I understand and used to share your view of Ash Wednesday. I went ashless this year but want to share an experience that made me appreciate my more liturgical friends. In 1991, just before Ash Wednesday I was serving as Chaplain to an Army Evacuation Hospital in Saudi Arabia (Gulf WAR). one day 3 fellow chaplains visited my hospital seeking ashes for use at services on the up-coming AW. I looked around at all the date palm trees scattered across the Saudi desert and asked why they did not simply go pick and burn some branches. Their answer touched me deeply. The ashes used at AW are not randomly chosen. They are created from the palm branches used the previous year on Palm Sunday. Each year at the end of Lent (PS) we make vows to live more closely to our Lord. The waving branches signal this desire. For a year the world beats on our vows and few of them last unscarred. On AW we burn the branches and mark our foreheads to remind us of human frailty and God’s mercy given through Jesus.


    • Brian Casey 04/22/2017 / 8:48 am

      I appreciate your understanding of my lack of affinity for such rituals and “seasonal stuff.” It’s good to be able to express acceptance of another’s opinion when you don’t share it.

      I was aware of the use of last year’s Palm Sunday branches, but I don’t recall having heard quite so fleshed-out an explanation of the symbolism. I think some of my lack of interest in such things as ash rituals comes from my aversion to the particular denominations they tend to be associated with. Still, if I had come across your verbiage about 20 years ago, I might have made a plan to involve close friends in just such a PS/AW observance next year!


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