I stepped foot into a church today. It was not somebody’s baptism, a funeral or anyone’s wedding day. It was me making a choice on this Ash Wednesday.
When I made the decision to go for ashes I was immediately faced with the problem of where to go considering I had decided long ago that Catholic is who I used to be. With a non-religious Jewish husband, an Episcopalian daughter, catholic sons, and my own interest in Eastern religions together with a personal journey with spirit I needed help. So I Googled.
Frankly, I sought a church that fit my timeframe and close enough proximity to my Wednesday morning Zumba class. There were several choices and like Goldilocks I wanted the right fit.
I chose St. Thomas More Catholic Church for reasons that went beyond my Zumba schedule. Wikipedia gave me a head’s up on who Thomas More was, and I was impressed to learn that he was a kind of trailblazer in women’s right to education starting with his own daughters. Having read The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory and having seen the 2008 movie, it was interesting to know that Thomas More was the Chancellor of England who refused to sign the document to allow Henry VIII to divorce his wife Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn. More was a man of principals, a friend of the commoner and a man beloved by friends and his family. He was the inspiration for Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, a portrayal of Thomas More’s life ending with his execution for treason for not doing what old Henry wanted him to do.
So, in my sneakers and exercise duds I followed my GPS’ instructions to church. I joined others as they entered the building and I found a seat near the back row. Old habits die hard. The pastor’s homily spoke right to us, it wasn’t lofty, and it held me rapt. He likened the ritual of ashes to campers sitting around a fire. Okay, I thought. I’m listening. Go on. Think of yourself huddled with others around that campfire on a dark chilly night, he told us, and everyone is quiet with their own introspective thoughts such as Where am I going from here? What is my calling? What are my gifts? How shall I serve? The ashes, he continued to say, are a symbol of repentance, but too, they can be the symbol of our new path from here forward. I came away thinking this is a time to know your gifts and to discover ways to share them. So, today concealed under the fringe of my bang I sport a black dab of soot that marks my awareness of these campfire questions and my personal journey for answers. Who knew?