More thoughts about Ash Wednesday

I was quite a way through the day before I found out that Catholics are supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday. It was a bit too late by then, but how was I supposed to know when no-one had told me? I guess that Catholic converts are supposed to just pick up these things as they go along. I’d probably have run a mile if I’d been handed a manual of rules when I decided to become Catholic, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t.
I guess that the rules only make sense if they help you get to the spirit of what’s behind them. Many years ago, when I married, people wondered if I was going to become Catholic like my husband. My reaction was, “No chance. Why would I exchange one traditional church and its heavy burden of rules with another?”
Now I’ve come full circle. I didn’t keep rules (apart from traffic ones) for many years. I no longer feel I have to keep religious rules to please other people, or because I’m scared of the consequences of breaking them. I could just ignore this new set of rules, but if I did, maybe I would miss out on an important lesson which the rule is trying to teach me. Somewhere in the middle, between keeping rules for the wrong reason and ignoring them altogether, is a very narrow path where keeping the rule leads to a deeper understanding of some aspect of faith.
Why do religion at all? Is it for the show of the thing, or for the spirit? God is bigger than all of our religions, but without the discipline of some kind of religious practice can we really know God? I’m sure that we can have some knowledge of God without religion, but will we be challenged to go further? I don’t know the answers. I’m just throwing up questions here.
How long are you supposed to keep the ashes on your forehead? There’s another question I don’t know the answer to. I didn’t want to wipe them off right after leaving church, and so I walked home through our mainly Protestant town, with a hat that didn’t quite pull down all the way to my eyebrows. I’ve made some mental notes to prepare for Ash Wednesday next year:
1 Grow a long fringe and/or
2 Bring a low brimmed hat to church

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