When I was in college I was not yet baptized and I was very curious about Catholic customs. One Wednesday I noticed my friend, Kevin, sporting a black smudge on his forehead. I asked him, “Dude, what’s that on your forehead?”

“Ashes,” he said. Of course, I thought, why not keep a smudge of ashes on your forehead for everyone else to see. Then I noticed that several other students had black and grey smudges on their foreheads. So I asked Kevin what was the significance of the ashes. He said, “It’s Ash Wednesday.”

Still feeling a bit lost; I asked what was the significance of Ash Wednesday. “It’s the start of Lent where you have to give something up.” Clearly Kevin was not interested in providing answers that would help this poor young pagan any clarity. So I pressed him, “What are you going to give up for Lent?”
“Playing pinball machines,” he said. I asked Kevin what purpose would giving up pinball machines serve. He said that all Catholics had to sacrifice something that they really like and for him, giving up playing pinballs was a sacrifice.

For Kevin, Lent was a tangible way for him to connect to the Catholicism of his mother (she insisted that all her children practice the Catholic discipline of Lent) and a way to think about his relationship to God (vis a vis giving up pinball games).

…. Lent always turns from the self and points us toward the baptismal waters of Easter where we promise to share in the three-fold ministry of Christ: Priest, Prophet and King.

…. Our Lenten journey as “Priest” will lead us to commit ourselves to work toward building a more inclusive, welcoming community in which all persons feel connected and embraced.

…. Lent gives us an opportunity to build up our community along the vision of the Peaceable Kingdom where the mighty lion lies peacefully with the fragile calf (see Isaiah 11) and for us to get involved in the solution rather than simply blaming others for social ills.

…. In Lent we might take the time to ask ourselves if power is being used appropriately in our own family. We might even involve ourselves in supporting low wage workers gain justice in the workplace. We could even address public officials’ treatment of the poor and vulnerable.

To read the entire Feb. 21 article from the San Jose diocese paper by Father Jon Pedigo, click here.