How to Explain Your Ashes: 3 Methods

Ash Wednesday Ashes

Have you ever been asked about your Ash Wednesday ashes? During the Ash Wednesday service our foreheads are adorned with ashes followed by the words:

“For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19)

This physical sign commemorates the beginning of our Lenten season of sacrifice and spiritual growth. If you are like me, it is not uncommon for your Ash Wednesday cross to turn into a smudge. When going out in public, you may receive a question or comment about your forehead being “dirty”. It is easy to be vague and shy away from giving an answer about the meaning of this mark of sacrifice. But this year challenge yourself to be prepared to fully answer their questions. Here are three ways to respond to remarks about the smudge on your forehead:

That Time When St. Peter Beat Up St. Lawrence of Canterbury

King of Kent and St. Augustine of Canterbury

Some saints, while they were still living, had other saints appear to them from heaven to offer encouragement (for example, St. Therese of Lisieux appeared to St. Faustina). Some also had the Devil appear and physically attack them (for example, St. Padre Pio). But it’s not too common that a saint from heaven appears to another living saint to beat them up!

Lenten Season 101: A Guide for Everything You Need to Know

Lent Information Guide

Lent is the time of spiritual preparation prior to the Easter season, just as Advent is for Christmas.

“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” -Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Here’s a rundown of everything major you need to know about the Lenten season, the 40 days of preparation before the greatest of all Christian feasts: Easter.

Anticipating Lent: Your Pre-Lent Pep Talk

Death Valley

Lent is fast approaching and Catholics across the world will soon gather in solidarity on Ash Wednesday to embark on the 40+ day journey into the proverbial wilderness of self-denial. Denying ourselves something we enjoy during Lent is a simple and clear way to remember all that Christ has sacrificed on our behalf. Yet, Lent is often remembered as an “ordeal”. We fall into the trap of characterizing Lent as a miserable and grumpy time. Why?

Does Christmas End on Epiphany?

Epiphany

We all know that Christmas officially begins on Christmas Eve, but when does Christmas end? It’s complicated …

On January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany (in most places in the U.S. the feast is transferred to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8), the Church celebrates the biblical event where the Magi, also called the Three Wise Men or Three Kings, traveled from the East to pay homage to the newborn King, Jesus Christ. Many Catholics believe that this is the date when the Christmas season officially ends, being the end of the 12 days of Christmas.

However, according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, Ordinary Time doesn’t officially begin until the Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on the Sunday after Epiphany. This means that the Christmas season actually extends beyond the popular “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

January 3: Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

Holy Name of Jesus

Historically, this special feast reverencing Jesus’ name is closely associated with the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus. According to Jewish law, on the 8th day after his birth a male child was circumcised, received his name, and became a full member of God’s covenant people. This is what happened to Jesus as we read in Luke 2:21: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

The Three Kings and the Original Gifts of Christmas Tradition

Three Kings with Baby Jesus and Mary

We can’t imagine a Nativity scene without those three men wearing jeweled crowns and rich robes, holding out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the newborn King of the Jews, while Mary and Joseph look on in wonder. This is the biblical event we celebrate each Christmas season on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. How much do you know about the Magi and the meaning behind the original gifts of Christmas? Listen below.

Christmastide: The Celebration Has Just Begun!

Christmas Decorations at the Vatican

There is a reason why Christmas is called a season. It does not last for a single day. After Easter, it is the most important liturgical feast in the Church calendar. Why? Because Christmas is what made Easter possible. Without Our Lord’s incarnation and birth, our redemption would not have been brought to completion, and there would be no hope for us in our fallen state.

So first, we celebrate the octave of Christmas. This means that there are eight official solemn days of rejoicing. In the language of the Church, the word “solemn” does not mean what our common use of the word defines it as. It doesn’t mean being grim, serious, or morose.

According to a simple definition: “In the Catholic Church year, a solemnity is the highest ranking holy day possible in the Church calendar…” These are days that are emphasized by particular joy, lavishness, pomp, and glory.

The Story of St. Francis of Assisi and the First Nativity Scene, as told by St. Bonaventure

St. Francis of Assisi and the First Nativity Scene

Nativity scenes have been a popular Advent and Christmas decoration for centuries. And, did you know, it originated with a Catholic saint? St. Francis of Assisi had a special devotion to the Child Jesus, and he is credited with creating the first nativity scene on Christmas Eve of the year 1223. He recreated the scene of Christ’s birth in a special service and Mass he held inside of a cave, inviting both his fellow friars and the townspeople to join in the celebration.