Mardi Gras and Lent are fast approaching, and Ash Wednesday kicks things off. Father gets to rub ashes on your forehead and offer the words calling you to repentance. The ashes symbolize repentance, mortality and atonement.  Then Mass is over, and you leave church…and now what? Can I wash off the ashes? Do I have to wear them for the whole day? Father did not exactly draw a cross on my forehead, it is more like a smudge or silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock. What do I do now? Is someone going to ask me, “Is that dirt on your forehead?”

Although we are obligated to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, there are no rules on how long you have to wear the ashes. But wearing them around town is a chance to express that your faith is important to you and even engage in conversation with curious people. I get a lot of looks when I wear my ashes in a grocery store or if I’m at the airport. These are great opportunities to evangelize.

So, wear those ashes proudly – and encourage your parishioners to use them as yet another opportunity to bring others to Jesus and His Church. Everyone should have a good answer to the question, “Is that dirt on your forehead?”