Why Catholics wear Ashes on Their Foreheads

Today my family and I attended the Catholic Mass at Garrett’s school Where we celebrated Ash Wednesday. If you are celebrating, Happy Ash Wednesday. I can remember as a young girl and a non-Catholic I would always wonder why Catholics wear ashes on their foreheads, it seemed a little strange to me. It was never explained to me until I converted to Catholicism after I got married. I did not convert because of my husband. We had agreed before marriage to raise our children Catholic and before we had them I decided to to that I needed to learn about it. I joined our parishes OCIA classes to do just that. During these classes, I learned that Catholics are really not that different than other Christian religions. They are, however, more steeped in traditions.
I have not always been a regular Ash Wednesday attendee I must admit and yes I have been known to “accidently” rub some off so it’s not so dark. So you know how Karma get’s ya, These are my ashes this year…yea that’s what ya call a first swipe after the dip!

This was the first year Matthew realized about ashes and came back to sit in our pew and said, why do I have dirt on my face? Well, in an effort to explain it to him, I told him it was because we are not always good boys and girls and it is to remind us of that and that we need to be good.

For those of you who think we are all weird freaks running around with dirt on our heads and would like a more adult description here is a great quote from Fallible Blogma.

“Many people, including Catholics themselves, have no idea why we walk around on Ash Wednesday with dirty black smudges on our foreheads.
First, it’s not a smudge. It’s supposed to be a cross drawn with ash. However, some of the people administering the ashes are a little better artists than others. Either way, it gets the job done. The ashes represent our mortality and are an outward sign of our sinfulness.But why would anyone want to be reminded of this? Perhaps because it’s true. We are indeed mortal – we are dust, and to dust we shall return (Gen 3:19). We are sinful too. And in a world that constantly says “if it feels good, do it” and suggests that a guilty conscience is just one more thing we need a prescription for, we definitely need this healthy dose of reality.

There is something much more important that must go along with this, though. It always helps to put everything we do in the Church in context with the most important event – the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Easter.
In this case, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent which is preparation for Easter. And real preparation for Easter isn’t done with travel plans, fervor over the Sunday afternoon meal, and a resolution to eat less chocolate. It’s done in your soul.
When we look in the mirror on Ash Wednesday and see that black smudgeon our forehead, we should be reminded that, no matter what, we are still sinners in need of constant conversion. It is the Church calling us back once again to the graces of our baptism, to do penance, and amend our lives as we approach the greatest celebration in the Church – Easter.
So don’t wear your ashes proudly, but make sure you wear them…and wear them humbly

This year I am wearing my dark ashes proudly, to the grocery store, to the neighbors and anywhere else I go today, I am proud to be a Christian and proud to be a Catholic Convert.  


10 Responses

  1. Thanks Andi, I love that truck you are standing in front of, it's awesome!
  2. I love that you explained it so well! Thanks for sharing with everyone who may not understand why we wear our ashes.
  3. KellyRickels says:
    loved this post! and I had no idea you're a convert-- me too! I grew up Methodist but most of my family is Southern Baptist and the question I get asked most often is why we worship Mary!
    1. Kelly that is so funny, I can remember my Southern Baptist Dad saying you know those Catholics they worship Mary! I had no idea you were either, love it!
  4. Didn't get ashes this year as my grandson was in the emergency room. However, it's wonderful to see that you did. Best wishes. Linda I am following you and would love to have you follow me back. Thanks. Linda
    1. Oh Linda I am so sorry I hope he is well and will say a prayer for him!
  5. Great explanation. I took my girls to the Ash Wednesday service tonight at our church. It was wonderful and our pastor did a great job of explaining it so the kids couldn't understand what Lent is and what it symbolizes. I'm not sure they really understood the Ash part though. Your words were helpful! Thank you!
    1. Thanks Frances, it is hard sometimes to put things on a easy level for younger kids to understand, I am glad I could help
  6. Very nice post about ash Wednesday, I know growing up I was asked a lot why I had "dirt" on my head during ash Wednesday.You explained it well, Keep up to post! :)
    1. Thanks Michelle for visiting I hope to hear from you again!

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