Ash Wednesday 2021: The One Thing that Gets People to Run to Church, and they Ruin It

Tell me any other day of the year that has no obligation to attend Mass that gets as high an attendance as Ash Wednesday? The success of Ash Wednesday to create favorable desire to go to Church should be lauded, right?

So popular is it, that other denominations have been imitating it and having their own Ash Wednesday gigs… I mean, c’mon! When you are hot, you’re hot…

I mean, the Bishops have been removing obligations so long now, that everyone forgot that we have a successful method of bringing sinners to Church every year without fail… Seems like it works even better than Christmas and Easter!

But, this year, I think the shine will be removed, sadly.

Modified Imposition of Ashes “for the pandemic.”

Back in early January, on the 12th, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Disciple of the Sacraments issued a modification to the Ash Wednesday method of imposing ashes “in time of pandemic.” The Congregation website is here, but I do not see the decree on the website yet.

Vatican News reported the decree on 12 January, and in pertinent part, it states:


After blessing the ashes and sprinkling them with holy water in silence, the priest addresses those present, reciting once the formula found in the Roman Missal: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

At that point, the note continues, the priest “cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask, and distributes ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places.”

He then sprinkles the ashes on each person’s head “without saying anything.”

Vatican modifies distribution of ashes for Ash Wednesday, Vatican News, 12 Jan 2021

L’Osservatore Romana was kind enough to publish the note in its entirety. See what Vatican News decided to omit here:

THE BOTTOM LINE: The priest isn’t going to touch you and he isn’t going to exhort you individually. the rona might get you otherwise.


I’ve asked several priest friends about this, and whether they would have a bootleg imposition of ashes. Most of them feel obedience bound. I have to admit that I hate this modification, but I will not fault any priest for following the rightful protocol. It is licitly issued (unlike Communion in the Hand) and ought to be followed.

As a lay person, though, I hate it.

Some Priests: “I wish people would stop asking me to break the rule.”

I get it. It must be frustrating because priests have to walk the line these days. If they do anything in favor of tradition and provide a pretense for discipline, they get sent off to the Gulag for “psychological rehabilitation.” Worse, they’ll be banished for “pastoral concerns” as was Fr. Rothrock last year.

Some Priests: “It will be a Nice break from selfie spectacle of Ashes”

Don’t hate the ashes. That some of the sheep are attached to an external, and like to post selfies with their ashes, all the while leading lives betraying any sense of repentance shouldn’t be a reason to hate the ashes.

More than Twelve Centuries of smooshing ashes on the foreheads of penitents for Ash Wednesday and telling them to memento mori isn’t easily dismissed just because ashes have become an integral spectacle. I suspect the Black Mouse Pub in the village of squiredale long had people parading in to show their embedded foreheads in its day as well.

Arguing away the practice of ashes because some abuse it doesn’t ameliorate the need to preach on hell and the vice of vanity. This modification won’t make people less vain. It will take away a popular hook and send them away to be vain about something else — never stepping foot in a church again, maybe.

Some Priests: “This is the more ancient way…”

So what? Why change what works? Besides, this explanation seems dodgy and ill informed. But there’s no need to argue it, really…

I mean, I get it. Priests need to support the rule with good reasons so they feel better following it.

I just feel bad that the one thing that seems to be working to draw people to church these days is jettisoned, and nobody but us grumpy codgers seem to care…

Worse, this is just one more example of liturgical tinkering … erasing the habits and mores of the seasons and cycles of life… Maybe that’s the only thing eft for some of these vain hashtag selfies THOTs… but it was working.

This article, Ash Wednesday 2021: The One Thing that Gets People to Run to Church, and they Ruin It is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.

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