Bearing the Cross of Ashes 17 February 2015 Victoria Kwaben
This Wednesday; February 18, 2015, the Joliet Catholic community gathered for Ash Wednesday Mass. The mass commenced in a traditional, however not in the customary way of a regular mass.
Students walked in silently carrying a wooden cross, which they placed near the alter. Following the cross was a procession of people who carried numerous rocks of all sizes and shapes. These stones became the stand of the cross as they were set on the ground surrounding the base of the cross, holding it in place. To finalize this series of steps, a purple cloth, the liturgical sign of preparation, was draped across the shoulders of the cross.
This was the true and traditional introduction of the Mass of Ashes for Joliet Catholic Academy. The tradition, dating back to the late 1900s, was and remains as unspoken words to the crowd, symbolizing the beginning of Lent. Sister Barb had then greeted the public, speaking of sacrifices people make during this time to prepare for Easter, the Resurrection of Christ.
Despite the fact that mass had begun, in the public’s mind, it truly had not until Father Jeff had spoken the people. The students and faculty had waited anxiously for Father Jeff to address the crowd. His orations, well known for this specific mass, particularly because he un-hesitantly and customarily addressed the current problems of society, and how students, at times may be associated or involved with the problems.
Father Jeff’s intense but honest homily, not only captured the attention of the students, but truly reached them. Towards the end, Father Jeff connects the meaning of his homily with the time of lent when he asserted; “Lent calls us to look at ourselves; to reflect. It is a time in which we need to be challenged so that we may become better people.” After his stirring sermon, the people of the mass formed a line to receive the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. The students and faculty bear the cross of ashes for the entire day. Father Jeff later explained that the cross of ashes is received “to express repentance.”