Wednesday, March 01, 2006

ashes to ashes

I told folks today that they didn't have to leave the ashes on their foreheads all day.
They were asking.

A lady wanted some ashes for her pets.
I wonder what she thinks Ash Wednesday ashes do, anyway.
I decided to err on the side of caution.

A few years ago - this is true, by the way - Fr. Kelly told me that a women left an urn with the remains of her husband in the chapel at his catechetical center without telling anyone. Apparently, Juanita wanted Guillermo to rest in quiet, dignified surroundings while his burial place was being readied.

Fr. Kelly returned from an out-of-town retreat just as Lent was starting and celebrated Mass that Wednesday morning for the teachers and students at the center. He assumed that the fancy container with ashes on the offerings table in the chapel had been put there for his use. Although, he remarked later, it did seem like a lot of ashes for the 40 or 50 people who attended Ash Wednesday Mass there.

Those good folks went home with Guillermo on their minds.

That story has stayed with me. On Monday - this is also true, I have witnesses - we were cleaning the sacristy in this small urban church, thousands of miles from where Fr.Kelly made his unfortunate assumptions years ago, and we found two small earthenware urns stashed away on the bottom shelf of one of the closets. They were filled with grey powdery dust and hard dirty white fragments.

Taking no chances, I carefully labeled the urns "Juanita" and "Guillermo" and buried them behind the rectory.

I then burned last year's palm strands. Those ashes were under constant surveillance until today.

Is everyone's world as bizarre as the Exorcist's?