Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell has shown the way by distributing ashes in Market Square. As he said, the apostles took the good news into the market square.
Too bad the Catholic Church has its head up its cassocks. We are producing an entire generation of young Catholics without any tradition of ashes to begin Lent. I was told by a pastor that Rome has decided that ashes should be given during Mass. If this is correct, can ashes be given only during a Mass? That makes as much sense as saying the rosary or holy water (sacramentals, too) can be done only at Mass.
However, I know a Carmelite monastery that has ashes at the Mass for those who attend but also leaves the ashes there -- with the prayer card -- for those who can find a moment to stop in. How much more effective is this evangelization! Why not have both? Bishop Zubik?
Why can't our Catholic churches provide ashes at Mass and also outside of Mass? Do I have to enumerate all those (students, mothers and workers, for a few examples) who might be able to participate in this concrete symbol outside of Mass? Isn't expanding opportunities preferable to restricting them? Aren't these circumstances enough? Would 350-plus days be enough time to get it right?
The writer teaches in the religion department at Washington & Jefferson College.