Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ash Wednesday - why is it so beloved, and what happens if your birthday falls on it?!

Ash Wednesday is interesting, is it not? It's certainly an important day in the tradition of our faith. It marks the beginning of Lent, our major penitential season leading up to the holiest day of the year. It offers a physical sacramental to remind us of what we are doing and why during Lent.  The Church asks us to fast from food between (smaller) meals, and to abstain from meat, denoting the serious nature of the day. So there is all of this, but technically Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Catholics are not bound to attend Mass on that day, and indeed many parishes hold scripture services with ash distribution instead. My parish does. Although there is still an 8 am and a noon Mass, and my forehead as well as my children's will be in attendance at one of them. :0

Yet, Ash Wednesday is one of the highest attended services of the year (along with Christmas), even more so than Easter. Our diocesan newspaper mentioned this in an article recently. It doesn't really make any sense, but there you have it. There is obviously something about the ritual of ashes that resonates with people who otherwise attend Mass infrequently. Thoughts on this?

At any rate, let's talk about Lenten birthdays (great post on this topic at Catholic All Year, by the way). When one's birthday falls on a Church mandated day of fast and abstinence, what does one do? Celebrate before, or after? Or, if you're me, BOTH!


Indeed, my always dreary February birthday falls on Ash Wednesday this year. So, hey! Why restrict one's birthday to a single day? I'm calling this a birthday WEEK (sans Wednesday) and just enjoying the ride. :)

I met Mike and the kids at a local Irish restaurant after work yesterday for a family birthday dinner. Shepherd's Pie and Harp, I mean...life is good, yes? We had a very nice time. When we got home, this was waiting for me:

All I asked for this year was a cookie cake, and to go to the Catholic New Media Conference. I'm getting both. :) I feel loved. *beams* So we enjoyed some of the cake last night, and Mike and I watched Downton Abbey after the kids went to bed. It was a *wonderful* evening. Tonight, we're going to enjoy more cake. Because tomorrow is, you know, Ash Wednesday. :)

So, I've decided that tomorrow, although technically my actual birthday, is just going to be Ash Wednesday for me. I'm taking the day off from work, going to Mass, and just going to focus on the Lenten side of things. And I'm looking forward to it, I love Lent. But no cookie cake. :) We will fast tomorrow. Thursday, I'm having dinner with some friends from college, and Saturday night Mike and I are going out to dinner by ourselves. That's a lot of birthday, yes? Plus, I have the CNMC to look forward to in June. I'd say this is a pretty great year.

What are your plans for Ash Wednesday 2015, dear reader? Do tell me all about it. :)


  1. HB's school has a service at our parish (the school is served by our parish despite being public). So HB goes with his class meanwhile I will attempt to drag Knee along. This never works out well because he thinks he's allowed to go play in the basement. I may have to go dig out some toys and candy and prep him about Mass behavior. Other than that the week is low key.

  2. I wish Henry were going to Mass at school, but he's off on Winter Break this week. He's naturally being pretty obstinate about going with Anne and I tomorrow, but alas. :)

  3. My Birthday is March 6th and ALWAYS during Lent...such the sacrifice us winter babies must endure. Last year it was the Thursday between Ash Wednesday and Friday this year it's a Friday.

    People will make comments but I've just learned to embrace it..it's kind of cool to have a birthday during such an important time of year...and gives me an excuse to go out for seafood. :) Besides Purple is my favorite color :)

  4. Beth Anne, these are excellent reasons to love our Lenten birthdays. :)I actually adore seafood as well. It's not really that much of a sacrifice for me to give up meat!

  5. My birthday is right in the middle of March where the latest in Lent it can be is Good Friday - which apparently only happens once in a purple moon (rarer than a blue moon, I decided). I know some people who have Lenten birthdays and decide to celebrate theirs on the closest Sunday, which is a fine option... until they criticize me for celebrating mine on my actual day. The way I look at it, it's not our fault that we were born during Lent and God certainly must want us to celebrate the gift of the life He has given us! Should my birthday ever end up on Good Friday I would certainly celebrate early or postpone it a day, but if not - the party is on!

  6. Amanda, that's exactly how I feel. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday aside, I think Lenten birthdays should be like any other. :)

  7. This is the first year I don't have the convenience of Mass during the school day and I honestly am torn. It's either (1) get up for 6:30AM mass at the nearest parish and then drive right to school, or (2) go to 7PM mass which means I miss my pilates class. And of course I'm not going to play trivia which normally is on Wednesday nights because, well, being in a pub seems wrong and I can't drink or eat anyway.

    Early happy birthday to you!!!

  8. My birthday is February 22 which is ash Wednesday

  9. Same here. My birthday is on Ash Wednesday this year. 2/22. Happy birthday


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