"Command one: laugh!"
February 21, 2020
School service in hard times
March 12, 2020

It's that time again: Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and I need ashes for my school service. This time I made them myself - which was surprisingly difficult. While I was sitting there by my little fire, coking away, I realized pretty quickly that I'm not going to burn any palm branches, notes, streamers, or anything else in the service tomorrow. I'm sure that would go over well, but I don't think that effort is necessary. The ash cross in itself is such a strong sign, there's no need to pimp it.

I mean: where else does that exist in our culture? People paint themselves ritually with ash clearly visibly a sign on the forehead! Quite archaic, one knows so similarly otherwise from India or from primitive peoples. But in Europe? And even in Germany, which is dominated by the Reformation? Actually absurd.

But we Catholics like to do absurd things. We like to hold on to traditions that have such a deep meaning that you don't necessarily recognize them at first superficial glance, but have to have them explained to you.

When I paint the ash cross on the children's foreheads, I do not use any of the normal phrases. Neither "Remember that you are dust and return to dust" (I would probably simply overtax the elementary school children with this) nor "Turn around and believe in the gospel. This second formulation would work, of course, but even the one about repentance needs a bit of explanation. That's why the service is about the fact that we sometimes have to let go of things so that we become free for something new. After that, when I distribute the ash cross, I say: "Let go of the old and follow Jesus.

Through this simplification, I myself always get to the heart of things. Suddenly I no longer ask myself, "Do I believe in the Gospel?" but, "Do I follow Jesus?" Meaning the same thing, but the one is much more personal. Our faith is about a relationship, and I want to nurture that relationship more in the next few weeks.


  1. What is archaic about it is that as a child I was constantly forced to attend Catholic church services and thus also to wear the ash cross on my forehead.

    • Visitor says:

      How do you force someone to do that? Even Catholic schools now only celebrate school services per class every few weeks. At other schools, on the other hand, there is an obligation to learn an instrument, certain sports or languages, depending on the focus.

Post comment

%d Bloggers like this: