“Hey, Father, I can’t get to church today.”

22 Feb

You have your own favorite Ash Wednesday story, no doubt. Mine involves a city Metro bus. In any town, on Main Street is a good place for a Catholic church to be. There are multiple advantages: presence, curb appeal, access, visibility, passing traffic – all those and more. Add on the relaxed nature of the small town of Milford, and the location of St. Andrew is about as good as it can get.

Anyway, on to my Ash Wednesday story. Standing near the sidewalk outside church after the noon Mass on Ash Wednesday, I heard a voice. It was coming out of an open window by the driver’s seat of the city Metro bus #28, “Hey, Father!” He had stopped the bus, and the traffic behind him, right in front of church, in the eastbound lane.

As I stepped off the curb, the traffic in the westbound lane stopped, too. I got to the bus and was standing on the double yellow line in my purple vestments, as he continued, “It’s Ash Wednesday, and I can’t get to Mass today.” I didn’t have the ashes with me, but … instinctively (and playfully) I reached to my forehead, wiped off my ashes with my finger, and reached toward his head hanging out the window, “Remember that you are dust. Get moving!”

He was as pleased as could be as he drove off, as were the people in the cars and trucks behind him when he started moving again. Thankfully, no one else expected a drive-through imposition of ashes.

Yes, I know that for him the distribution and reception of ashes was not preceded by an appropriate Liturgy of the Word, but Jesus might say, “The ashes are made for man, not man for the ashes.”

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