I ask this because I have encountered Catholics who feel that it is inappropriate to wear one’s religion in an official capacity, i.e., at the workplace.
Is it permissible to wipe off the ashes from one’s forehead before going public?
It is a public sign of being a Christian! Why would someone even bother going to get ashes if they are just going to wipe them off as soon as they leave the church?
I work in an extremely liberal public university setting. Catholicism or christianity for that matter are not held in high regard. It is not out of the question for a co-worker to complain to management about being offended by the ashes. They have to come off in that case. Yes I said offended by the ashes. THey say offensive but what they really mean is they hate my faith and want to squash it and take great pleasure in forcing someone in to some sort of denial of the faith by wiping the “offensive” ashes off.
Because our Lord said that when we fasted, we should annoint our faces and put on fine raiment and not advertise the fact that we are fasting. That’s the reason I wipe away the ashes.
The ashes aren’t necessarily a sign to the world, per se, IMHO. They are a reminder to us, “Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.”
In that university setting, I’m wondering:
- Would a Jewish man be asked to remove his yarmulke?
- Would a Muslim woman be asked to remove her head scarf?
If the answer to those questions is “no”, I’d be mighty outraged at being asked to remove my ashes.
I’ve always wondered why the Church chose to have the Ash Wednesday readings about Jesus telling his disciples not to wear ashen faces and sackcloth.
I tend to remove the ashes, too, just because they have served their purpose of reminding me of my mortality. I see no reason to display it for everyone to admire me and my piety.
Is that a matter of not forcing one’s own religion on people or some internal ideas of division of church and state?
I don’t think it’s right to use religious symbols to cause offence, to hurt people’s feelings etc. “Right in your eye, pagan!” and so on. At the same time, why should it be proper to cast off God from everything but private life? All our lives must be devoted to God and especially in one’s official capacity should one be a humble recipient of God’s grace. If people were guided by the Christian faith in their official capacities, the world would be a better place.
So, I’m saying that I don’t like the idea of advertising our fasting, but at the same time we don’t need to be ashamed of our religion. Nor do we need to inflict on ourselves an internal split between where religion is appropriate and where not. There’s no such thing.
How do they tell the ashes anyway? I can’t see anything on anyone. I would think they sink in the hair…
If you do not want to go to work with the ashes then you should simply find a Mass time that is AFTER work. I know in my home parish (i’m away at school) there is a morning and an evening Mass, I think the evening one was a 4 or 5pm last year. If you wait then you don’t have the problem of wiping the ashes off.
Who cares what people think?!? Whoever denies the Son before men will be denied by Him before the Father. People died horrible torturous deaths for their faith, and yet we are afraid some liberal wackjob will think we’re weird or will shun us? Harken back to that strengthen of the Spirit you received at Confirmation–it was supposed to strengthen you to bring Jesus to the world–do not hide Him form those who need Him most–even if loving Him causes temporal personal loss. This world is transitory and vain, the next is eternal.
As Pope Leo XIII said:
Truly, he who disdains the worthless judgments of the mob, who prefers to undergo the scourging of insults rather than abandon duty in any matter, proves himself to be of a far greater and exalted spirit
Time to go to the employee handbook, and the HR department. As long as NO workers are allowed anything religious (muslim headscarves, other headcoverings, etc.) that is one story, employers cannot single out Christianity for discrimination. Call the Catholic League.
Who cares what they think, care more what Christ thinks! No one can force you to wipe them off, that is totally your choice. Christ or these poor “offended” co-workers who will not be able to properly function the rest of the day, that is the choice.
The ashes are a reminder to us of our sinfulness, but the Cross is an outward sign to others that we belong to God.
Do not be ashamed of the cross on your forehead. Read Ezechiel 9:4-7,
I would tend to agree with this response. This scripture likewise came to my mind – “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matthew 5: 11
Out of curiosity, I found these incident reports from the Catholic League archives:
2/12/97 ~ San Diego, CA – A young woman went to work at the Silvergate Retirement Residence on Ash Wednesday and was told to remove the ashes from her forehead. When she refused, her supervisor forcibly wiped the ashes from her forehead with a dishcloth. The league’s complaint resulted in the firing of the offender.
2/16/94 ~ LaGrange, GA – Detective Marc Clay, a member of the Police Department of LaGrange, Georgia, was suspended by Captain Randy Dye, Chief George Yates, and Lt. Barbara Price for refusing to remove the ashes from his forehead on Ash Wednesday. Despite the fact that none of Clay’s co-workers registered a complaint, Clay was suspended on the claim that his ashes hindered the workplace. After the league contacted superiors in the Police Department, the mayor and members of the town council, Clay received his back-pay plus another holiday to replace the one he’d lost.
I’m not sure who this is addressed to, but I would like to address this post and Brother Rich’s last post, in an effort to insure that we aren’t talking past each other.
I don’t wipe the ashes away as a result of pressure from anyone, which I would resist if confronted with it. I wipe the ashes away because of our Lord’s admonition as to our conduct during fasting. Others may have a different take on that, but He seems to imply that we aren’t to advertise our fasting or penance. There’s lots of examples of this throughout the history of the Church and in the lives of the Saints. Queen Katherine of Aragon wore the robes of a nun under her royal vesture, Saint Thomas More and Pope Paul VI wore hair shirts to mortify their flesh under their proper clothes. They simply didn’t advertise it, in obedience to our Lord’s admonition.
People who wipe away the ashes are not necessarily denying Christ, not necessarily being ashamed of the Son of Man (I suppose there are individual situations in which that’s the case).
Hmmmm. I have to report to jury duty immediately after Mass tomorrow morning. Should I wipe 'em or let 'em stay. . . ??? I’m leaning towards letting them stay, but I’m open to suggestions
Let 'em stay They probably won’t pick you and you’ll get to go home
Here are a couple of responses from note CA apologists:
In the United States, the ashes are mixed with oil and marked in the sign of the cross on the forehead. It’s pretty visible.
Many on this forum may not be aware that in Europe, the ashes are sprinkled on the top of the head.
Those are both excellent answers!
We have to remember that Jesus was speaking of hypocrites who used signs to make themselves look like they were fasting or praying or offering alms. Jesus was not speaking to those who are faithful followers of his.
The Church has designated Ash Wednesday as the day for sinners to recognize who they are: sinners. The ashes are a sign of our frail, human nature, marred by sin. The ashes are a witness to the world that all humanity is in deed of salvation through Christ.
So if one is faithful to Jesus, then we wear and keep our ashes on our foreheads to witness to the rest of the world. Some people who know that we are faithful followers of Christ in the Catholic Church, will question why we do not have ashes on our foreheads on this important, yet not, holy day of obligation.
Then there will be others who race to church to get ashes and go around showing everyone they have ashes on their foreheads. Some people who know that they do not faithfully follow Christ and only “practice” their faith at Christmas and Easter, will be surprised and may even say, “You’re Catholic?” These may be the hypocrites that Jesus is talking about. I say may be because we cannot read their hearts and their intentions, only God does.
So, if you are not a hypocrite in your faith, wear your ashes in faith and know that you are making a witness to God, the Church, and your neighbor that you are a believer in Christ. This witness places much responsibility on us for we are letting the world know that we follow Christ in a world that does not want anything about God, or Christ, or religion, or faith, to be seen in public.
**Blessed Ashes: **Ashes, as a Jewish sign of penitence, were accepted by Christians and are used now primarily as a Sacramental on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Derived from burning the palms from the previous year, the ashes are blessed and imposed on the faithful (in America on the forehead) during the ceremony after the Homily of the Mass. Outside Mass they are blessed and imposed during the Liturgy of the Word.
This outward popular symbol of private and public sorrow, sadness, or penance is a proof of humilty, the result of human frailty, a remembrance of our mortality, that we are made of dust and will return to dust. However, a second formula also allows another concept more in keeping with the Lenten period, namely, penance, contrition, and the striving after perfection. “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”
In the early Christian era ashes were imposed on public penitents, sprinkled on their penitential clothes. When the custom was discontinued, the present rite appeared.
On Ash Wednesday, the opening day of Lent, in keeping with its penitential spirit, Catholics observe a day of fasting and abstinence.
Dictionary of the Liturgy, Catholic Book Publishing Company, New York, 1989, pp 43-44.