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Don’t rub off your ashes, urges bishop

By on Thursday, 3 March 2011

People pray during an Ash Wednesday service at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York (CNS photo/Gregory Shemitz)

People pray during an Ash Wednesday service at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York (CNS photo/Gregory Shemitz)

Catholics should try not to rub their ashes off after Ash Wednesday Mass, an English bishop has said.

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, who heads the department of evangelisation and catechesis, urged Catholics across Britain to wear “the outward sign of our inward sorrow for our sins and for our commitment to Jesus as Our Lord and Saviour”.

He said: “The wearing of the ashes provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share with people how important our faith is to us and to point them to the cross of Christ. I invite you where possible to attend a morning or lunchtime Mass.

“Please try not to rub off your ashes as soon as you leave church, but take the sign of the cross to all those that you meet – in your school, office, factory, wherever you may be. This might just make people curious and wonder why you would do this. If you explain about Lent and Easter it might just make them think and may even awaken in them the questions that might lead to faith. Many people have a dim awareness of Lent and even ashes. It would be good to make this clear rather than dim.

“Don’t underestimate the power of this simple action and wear your ashes as not only a sign of the beginning of your Lenten journey, but also to witness to your greatest treasure in life. This small step could awaken faith in the hearts of many that you meet in a way that words could never do.”

Catholics receive ashes at Mass on Ash Wednesday where they are reminded of their own mortality when the priest says “From ashes to ashes”. The ashes are made from the fronds of palm used on palm Sunday of the previous year.

  • The Moz

    I’ll just say it came from the newspaper I was reading :)…just kidding. This year I will not be rubbing it off.

  • Richard A

    And yet, the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday has Jesus instructing His disciples to avoid any outward display of the penance they are performing. I probably won’t be rubbing off my ashes this year, but some time I would like to hear a sermon that attempts to reconcile our practice with His instruction.

  • http://www.the4thwall.co.nz A Lopez


    Jesus meant not to perform any outward display like the Pharisees did, in order to show people how much holier they were than others.

    This, however, is encouraging people not to be scared of showing off their faith in public. How many people will rub off their ashes in fear of being ridiculed in public? Too many, apparently.

  • CS

    I normally have uni on the day of Ash Wednesday and often have to go to the early morning mass to receive the ashes. I remember last year arriving to uni where my friend quickly exclaimed ‘you have crap on your forehead!’ and then proceeded to try and wipe it off! It definitely made me laugh and the poor thing was so embarrassed when I explained to her what it was. I bet she was thinking about it for the rest of the day though!

  • Grandpa Tom

    “Naked came I out of my mothers womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job: 1:21).” “Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the picture be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it (Eccl. 12:6,7.)” When our biblically appointed life is over we shall be at supper. In Shakespear’s play, Hamlet, the King asks Hamlet where Polonius is (Hamlet had just murdered him), Hamlet replies, at supper; the King, at supper, where? Hamlet answers: Not where he eats, but where he is eaten; a certain convocation of politic worms are eatin at him. (Scene III). Grandpa Tom says the sands of time are running out, and the hour glass is getting empty.

  • Anonymous

    Jesus was not prohibiting outward displays of faith. On the contrary, in Matthew 5 he teaches to not put your light under a bushel basket but to let it shine before all men so as to give glory to God. His admonishment of public displays of piety in Matthew 6 had to do with hypocritical, vain, and therefore empty displays of false faith. In other words, he was talking directly about purity of intention.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/Ui_c8tQp0eofD4FXNHlYbeznTTpcgQk-#24b04 Lucia Dafana

    i personally don’t think that Jesus literally mearnt the displaying of outward worldly things, Jesus spoke in parables, and if we are not careful we end up misinterpreting everything because most of his speeches and sermons were never direct. Instead we need praying and wisdom to be able to deduce meaning out of his parables and messages to the various people he spoke with

  • louella

    I am waiting for something a bit more challenging than ‘don’t rub your ashes off on Ash Wednesday’. It’s a bit wishy washy. Are we going to hear about the restoration of the old Lenten fasts being demanded by our bishops or the return of the strict Friday fast?! How about that initiative that was sounded out not too long ago about the Angelus being reintroduced into Catholic schools etc. Or are these in danger of attracting too many people to the faith?! What happened to all these initiatives then?!

    Makes you wonder!

  • justme

    Leaving on or rubbing off ashes is really not that important. What is more important in witnessing to our Catholic Christian faith is how we are seen every day to be loving our God and our neighbour in the way we think, talk and act.

  • Neville DeVilliers

    The bishops delight in telling the laity how it is they who should repent and precisely how they should repent. Physician, heal thyself. Benedict and his legions of approving Pharisees in purple need to step down and retreat into the desert and contemplate how it is they who have failed the Church.

  • Aging Papist

    Don’t rub off the ashes, but by all means take off that ridiculous cappa magna.

  • Rowan Carstairs

    They know a lot about mortality in Arundel and Brighton. Since the days of ‘Tarmac’, he and ‘Fr Ted’ Conry have have very successfully extinguished most forms of Catholicism, as we know it, from this now very ‘micro’ diocese. At the cathedral there is one Bishop, ‘Ted’, and an ageing priest, lots of married deacons no doubt and lay ministers of communion! Oh and ‘Teds’ big mission not to let a Tridentine mass ever be said on his patch! Still there are so few catholics left and fewer still priests it is ceasing to matter very much.

  • Rich

    Is Ash Wednesday on Sunday this year, or have I missed it?

  • LM

    says the man telling the pope what to do

  • Elizabeth

    Ad Hominem arguments never have much force. Name calling is not charitable. Calumny and detraction, particularly concerning a Shepherd of the Church – albeit a weak one – say more about you than about the Bishop. I suggest you turn your venom to prayer and pray for him, and for us, his flock, this Lent. Your prayers will be gratefully received. BTW there are EF Masses celbrated most weeks in A&B. Go here to see:

  • TLM Reigns

    Our Catholic Church began with eleven men who took on the entire Church establishment of their time, the Jewish Sanhedrin — and they won! We also need to remember the words of St. Basil the Great, who wrote when most of the “Catholic” bishops and even the “Catholic” popes of his time had embraced the heresy of Arianism, denying the divinity of Christ:

    Who has lost and who has won in the struggle — the one who keeps the buildings or the one who keeps the Faith? The Faith obviously. That therefore the ordinances which have been preserved in the churches from old time until now may not be lost in our days,… rouse yourselves, brethren,… seeing them now seized upon by aliens.

  • Defy Vatican Error

    Canon 844.2. Makes it lawful for any Catholic out of “necessity”
    or “genuine spiritual advantage” to seek out and attend (or celebrate in
    the case of a priest) the Traditional Latin Mass and other traditional
    Sacraments in churches or chapels that are not “recognized” by the

  • Anonymous

    That is o.k.; we need critics or we may end up as gods who are law unto themselves: This applies to society as well to religion to keep us all in touch with true life.

    Have you not heard about a phenomenon called PROPHECY or prophets in religions and societies? or do u mean to be an absolutist?

  • celpar

    He’s quite right. Most years a well-meaning person tells me that I have a dirty mark on my forehead giving me the opportunity to mention Lent. Today the friendly cashier at the supermarket said ‘Oh, is it Ash Day? I must try to get to church after work’ after which we had a chat about Pope Benedict (‘Nice man’) and what sort of person we want to be pope, settling on holy. OK, it’s not profound, but any chance to talk about religion in public is worth using.  I hope the queue was edified,not annoyed!

  • Gonsalves Jenna

    I wish they would make the ashes look like an actual cross and not like a dirt smudge. People aren’t interested in or wanting to know about lent when they look at me – they just think im dirty.