STILL a bit sore with the Catholic Church over the handling of the Tuam babies tragedy that saw up to 800 deceased infants buried in an unused septic tank outside a mother and baby home? Or perhaps you’re still holding a grudge against the church over the way they would handle allegations of sexual impropriety against the clergy by simply moving the offending priest to a new parish where he could restart his paedophile activity with a fresh batch of victims? Well, whatever your beef is, you’d better put it aside for 24 hours; it’s Ash Wednesday!
Ash Wednesday is one of the only days of the Catholic calendar where actual visual proof of who is and who isn’t a good practicing Catholic is evident for all to see, with the big black smudge of ash on the forehead being a tell-tale giveaway over who’s been to mass or not.
With Catholic guilt still as big in Ireland as ever it was, even vocal opponents of the Church feel the need to get ashes on Ash Wednesday to ensure that their local community doesn’t think they’ve allowed their faith to lapse, which could possibly result in ostracisation from local groups, schools, and ‘nice masses’ like the one a Christmas.
“Look, we know it’s cool to bash the Church over, well, over any number of things that we’ve done over the years” said Fr. Eamonn Gurton, mixing up even more ashes for this year’s service than he used last year.
“But the people who are so angry with us are the same people who baptise their kids to get them a school place, and get those same kids confirmed so they ‘won’t miss a day out’. And you can bluff that you’re a good practicing Catholic all year, and tell people that you ‘went to an earlier mass, that’s why I didn’t see you’ all you want, but if you don’t have ashes on Ash Wednesday, then people will know all about your fair-weather faith”.
Fr. Gurton went on to add that as Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Catholic feast of Lent, people needed to get ashes if they wanted to join in the fun tradition of depriving themselves of some harmless vice for 6 weeks.