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« Lenten Protestants | Main | Gum At Mass »

March 02, 2006



A lady at work got the ashes on top of her head. Her priest had just come back from Rome and said thats how its done there. Never heard of that. Anybody got a clue to getting ashes sprinkled on your crown?


When Jimmy talked about the big thick ashes being on everybody's foreheads at CA, I just had this image of people banging their foreheads agaist the walls to leave marks and remove some of the ashes at the same time.

I suppose this is one reason why my wife stays at home with our son and not me.


Did the other article on when to wipe the ashes off, disappear? I just posted to it this morning but it doesn't seem to be showing up.


"Just don't be deliberately respectful as you do so."

You mean "disrespectful" right?


"A lady at work got the ashes on top of her head. Her priest had just come back from Rome and said thats how its done there. Never heard of that. Anybody got a clue to getting ashes sprinkled on your crown?"

Watching EWTN last night I could confirm that His Holiness, at least, does indeed apply ashes in that way (which makes a great deal more sense to me than the smudge on the forehead, if it is to be a sign of sorrow, penitence and humility.)

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

I also received ashes on the top of the head from the pope when I was a student in Rome (1988 to 1991). It's the Biblical way.

Also, if you look at the Latin "Missale Romanum" (from which our English "Sacramentary" is translated), it says on Ash Wednesday that the ashes are to be "made from branches of OLIVE trees, or of other trees, which were blessed in the preceeding year." The preference of tradition is olive branches, though palm branches have also been used.

Then, on "Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord" (as the Latin entitles it), that is why you see photographs of the pope carrying olive branches, rather than palm branches. In fact, the first antiphon that is to be chanted at the beginning of the procession on Passion Sunday is as follows. "The children of the Hebrews, bearing olive branches, went before the Lord, shouting and saying, 'Hosanna in the highest.'"

Deacon Chris

Mass attendance on Ash Wednesday was higher than I've ever seen at our church, including Christmas or Easter, something that always strikes me.

Since we are reading the Gospel account of Mark this year, I used the lesser known "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" prayer while imposing ashes (based on Mk 1:15).

I find that using the edge of my thumb instead of the middle of it makes a nice, distinct stroke so the cross actually looks like a cross, instead of a grey blob. I do tend to make it plenty prominent, though.

I pray that all of you would experience a holy and prayerful lenten season,

Deacon Chris

Eddie Mulholland

I lived in Rome for years, and in Europe in general the custom is to place the ashes on the top of the head. This comes from the "sackcloth and ashes" tradition. Presumably, Job didn't sit down and daub some ash over his eyebrows.

On Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father traditionally celebrates Mass at Sant' Anselmo on the Aventine hill and then processes to Santa Sabina a little further down the road. Since the church was designed for a monastery, the pews face in, as if the whole nave were a choir. Dominicans on one side, Benedictines on the other. It is lovely and rich in history (reminds one of rival theological schools staring each other down centuries ago).

The ashes are given on top of the head. Maybe that was a more obvious symbol for others back in the days of tonsure.

On a light note, both tonsure and ashes are NOT adumbrated in the Scriptural account of Pentecost, because the tongues of fire of the Spirit, arguably, did not burn the flesh.

Patrick Kinsale

I'm jumping into this a little late, but I noticed on Ash Wednesday the Gospel tells us to wash our faces when we fast. I always wash my ashes off right way so I don't appear to be any different.


I know that I am extremely late on this conversation, but it just seems like you are ashamed about your faith by washing them off immediately so as not to look "different". I see today, Ash Wednesday, as one of the few days where I can teach others about my faith. Many come up to me and tell me about the dirt on my forehead, and I tell them why the ashes are there.

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