Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Good Ash Wednesday Attendance

In this part of the world it is currently mid-term school holiday. When Ash Wednesday falls during school time, our parish primary school pupils all attend, with their teachers, and some parents. This is obviously a very lovely occasion. But we understand, of course, that the vast majority of those pupils are either not Catholic or not practising Catholics. The fact that they come to Mass with the school is obviously a great opportunity to open them up to the mysteries of the liturgical seasons and the liturgy itself.

But something that makes me even happier is to see families come to Mass on Ash Wednesday without leaving it to the school to ensure their children attend Mass. I was taken very much by suprise by the excellent attendance at both morning and evening Mass today. I had quite underestimated the likely attendance and very nearly ran out of Sacred Hosts. As the prophet Joel said: "Call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast." Little children and tots were delighted to be ashed along with their parents and older siblings. Non-catholic members of the families were also amongst those who came forward. I'm not sure if they were expecting the customary blessing at communion, but they got ashes and seemed pleased to be one with the rest of their families on this occasion.

A number of people clearly made a huge effort. After this evening's Mass, I was asked to give ashes to a number of people who had arrived too late to receive the ashes at Mass as they had struggled to get home from work and get their families together, yet they made it. Well done to them.

We also had an adequate number of young servers at both Masses.

There was a very happy atmosphere after Mass, very much in keeping with Our Lord's injunction not to put on gloomy looks when fasting...

Anyone else notice a good attendance at Mass today?

I was very grateful to Fr Z's commentary on the Collect and the translation of the Prayer over the People provided by one of his commentors. I used the version of the Collect from the English Breviary which remains authorised for use in the Mass:
Support us, Lord, as with this Lenten fast
we begin our Christian warfare,
so that in doing battle against the spirit of evil
we may be armed with the weapon of self-denial.


  1. We had a nice crowd too - although, considering it is half term here too, the numbers of families and younger parishioners present at two Masses was a little disappointing.

    Speaking of ash, for the first time in 20 years as a Parish Priest we were invoiced for what used to be complimentary packets of palm ash from one purveyor of liturgical goods. (The pathetic amount supplied in each packet wouldn't 'ash' one person if we did it in the Roman style - dry ash sprinkled onto the crown of the head.)

    Having ditched one firm over the last year because of incompetence and downright lack of decent customer service, I fear that these may be next. A recent re-organisation of the communications system and efficiency drive doesn't seem to have done them or their image much good. If it weren't for very obliging local branch staff and the outstandingly helpful delivery man I wouldn't hesitate to look elsewhere for consumables. A few goodwill packets of ash used to go a long way towards customer loyalty!

    I have tried burning piles of left-over dried palms in the past but the ash produced from this exercise is a little too rough on the skin and takes some reducing with a mortar and pestle to be usable.

  2. Yes, Father John - very good attendance and I've heard from other priests here across the pond that they had excellent attendance. I also used the breviary prayer for my homily. Happy Birthday for the other day!

  3. Fr: I think that most companies have always provided free sachets of ash if you are one of their customers or are ordering goods at the same time. I agree: it's not much to create good customer relations.

    Some people this year returned their palms from last year expecting me to burn them for Ash Wednesday. Is this a custom in some places? I too tried burning them myself one year and ended up with a ruined pan. One obviously needs a proper incinerator.

    Owl: good to hear numbers up around the place. Hope you had a good holiday!

  4. Fr. John, I was present one year when our then pastor concocted the ashes. The left over palms were saved, along with the huge palm branches which decorated the church for palm Sunday (plus the branches from the various potted palms. They'd dried out after palm Sunday. And then one Sat. when I was over in the rectory doing the bulletin not too long after Easter Father burned the palms in the barbecue. No particular ceremony! [Other than he had a grin on his face when he lit those first couple of palms. There was enough to save in two custard cup sized dishes...which were then kept on a high shelf in the sacristy -- and those slipped into plastic zip lock bags.

    However, palms around here literally grow on trees outside....(though I think even we normally buy commercially! No one having the patience, normally, to wash those things individually, though there were a couple of years when the palm trees were due for a trim around that time and we had a cottage industry cleaning the things the day before Palm Sunday.

    And then there was the time the simpletons at the 11:00 Mass didn't leave ANY (as in NOT ONE SINGLE) palm for the 5:15 Mass. However, as I as assisting at the 5:15, it was one thing I'd been in fear of for as was my wont I had gotten there WAY early for the Mass -- and denuded the sanctuary of two of the four large palm branches decorating the church, and fortunately there were scissors in the sacristy, because the 11:00 people would have been dead, dead, dead ... and you'd have read about me long before for "most unusual murder circumstances."

    [Last night I went to a Missa Cantata, good numbers, and there had been two earlier Masses that day. 5 servers,

  5. We had good numbers at both the morning and the evening Mass. Like you, our schools were on half-term and it was good to see quite a number of children at Mass - and a respectable number of altar servers too.

    Re producing your own palm ash. I was wondering about this too on my blog. I think it might be a bit problematical nowadays with the 'Elf 'n' Safety' brigade to keep happy! :)


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