Last Wednesday, I participated with 15 others from my parish in Ashes To Go.
We had met twice, in advance of the day, to organize our teams and get prepared. The Ashes To Go website guided us about making posters, how to carry the ashes, what to have as a "handout" and what "else" to expect.
Five teams scattered around our city during various times of the day. We set up "sandwich boards" on public sidewalks, river walk/pathways, bus stations, coffee shops, high schools, parks and assisted living facilities.
Our approach was simple: stand there and wait to be approached. When someone comes up, respond to their request.
Can I get ashes?
Why, yes, you can! What is your experience with this tradition?
Oh, I'm Catholic but I only have 20 minutes for lunch today, so I won't have time to get to mass.
Oh, I'm Lutheran and we love to have this done but we are visiting from out of town.
Oh, I've never had it done before. What does it mean?
I have no experience, but I saw you on TV and thought that is a great thing to do. I want some of *that!
After a short prayer, we impose the ashes... marking a sign on their forehead and saying,
remember you are dust and to dust you shall return
Often, I follow up with "is there anything on your heart that I can hold in prayer for you today?" And without hesitation, 98% of the people had something very close to the surface. It was palpable.
yes, can you pray for my father/mother/brother/aunt/sister/cousin/uncle... they are going through a hard time.
yes, can you pray for my patients at the oncology center where I work. they are having a hard time.
yes, can you pray for my unborn baby and her future
There is a hunger. There is a yearning. There is a desire.
to know God
to love God
to be known by and loved by God and to know that up close, personal.
Not within the church walls. Not "approved" by any outside authority. Not with any legal constraints.
Out there. In life. On the go.