Saturday, February 28, 2009

lenting it up: ash wednesday reflection

In the center of downtown, right across from the municipal building attached to City Hall, sits Old Saint Mary Parish, apparently one of the oldest buildings downtown. Built in 1846, it's as old as the city itself.

Conveniently they had a 7 AM Ash Wednesday mass that I could hit before work. As an added bonus, one of the auxiliary bishops, Bishop Richard Sklba, was presiding over the service. Nothing like adding an extra dash of holy to one's Lent. (And as an extra added bonus he was quite dynamic and humorous).

The readings for Ash Wednesday '09 were Joel 2:12-18 and 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2. The Gospel was Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, which is one of my fave passages about not flaunting your spiritual devotion. Bishop Sklba did note the irony of the fact that this reading asks us to not be blatant about our worship, yet the first thing Catholics do for Lent is plaster a huge smudge of ashes on their forehead. He emphasized though the community-aspect of this practice and also, of course, the self-reflection (in addition to the fasting) that Lent includes. He referred to Lent as "Christianity for Dummies," sort of a back-to-basics course. Since the basics are what I like about faith, I guess that's why I like Lent. He had two really good suggestions that I'm going to try and incorporate into my 40 days -- use this time to get organized (he mentioned ordering one drawer each day) and rebuild relationships with friends and family (letter-writing, emails, etc.).

As you can see from the photos, the church building itself is quite beautiful on the outside. Unfortunately I had to rush out after Communion and did not have time to linger and photograph the inside. I can assure you, it's gorgeous. Stained glass, gold inlays on the ceiling, somewhat imposing but still small enough to be much more intimate than the Cathedral. The only thing I'd change is the Robin's Egg Blue carpeting that looks like someone's grandmother's house in the '50s. I am curious as to who the regular parishoners are, as the Ash Wednesday crowd was quite the mix of downtown professionals of all ages and backgrounds.

Keeping downtown, tomorrow I'm going to hit up St. Benedict the Moor at 10 AM for the first Sunday of Lent. Hopefully I can post updates right away, as I have several Milwaukee adventures from today to write about (with pictures) as well.

For further reading, my friend Larissa wrote some pretty excellent reflections on the season over at her blog. Check it out!

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