Twenty two years ago today, on Ash Wednesday, I met my future spouse.
Rebecca, Ben and Ava receive ashes from Father Qui Thac.
Both in our junior year at the University of Puget Sound, Tim and I just happened to share a ride to St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Tacoma, the sacred place we would celebrate the sacrament of matrimony two years later. We were next door neighbors, he in the Phi Delta Theta house, and I in the Alpha Phi house. Although we had mingled and been at many of the same gatherings, we hadn't known one another. Until that day we hadn't known we shared our Catholic faith. Now we know that our Lord, in His providence, had marked us for each other from the very day we were baptized as infants (on the same day in different states, in 1968).
Hannah and Hope with Cathee and her violin after Mass
Returning to Church in observance of Ash Wednesday, I was well aware of my weakened faith life in college amid the distractions, temptations, unchecked selfishness, and general business. I wanted to begin again, to come before the Lord with a repentant heart. If only that day had truly been my turning point!
But it was a beginning of the rest of my life with Tim, and of a spiritual journey that would lead us to right where we are today: Ash Wednesday.
The beginning of Lent has always marked a new beginning in my life. My parents and teachers taught me to enter fully into this liturgical season which prepares us for the joy of Christ's resurrection at Easter.
Some years I simply made the same old sacrifice: no ice cream during Lent. Other years there were deeper commitments and spiritual efforts.
By the grace of God, Tim and I now get to pass on the very same faith to our children and Godchildren: encouraging them to lead examined, prayerful lives; resolving to set a good example for them; praying for them daily; offering up sacrifices on their behalf; fasting; abstaining from meat (today and every Friday in Lent); encouraging them to make frequent use of the healing sacrament of confession.
Father Qui Thac with Peter and our Goddaughter, Hope after Mass on Ash Wednesday.
We teach them to follow Christ's example during these 40 days of spiritual preparation for Easter.
The beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday reminds us how temporary is our time on Earth, and encourages us to strive to grow intentionally in holiness by offering up sacrifices and taking up new acts of charity and piety. To be transformed is our goal in Lent. We willingly enter the cocoon, so to speak, allowing God's hand to form and mold us to become what we were created to be.
Tobit 4: 5, 7b, 8, 14b, 15, 18-19a:
Through all your days, my son, keep the Lord in mind, and suppress every desire to sin or to break his commandments.
Perform good works all the days of your life, and do not tread the paths of wrongdoing.
Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God's face will not be turned away from you.
Son, give alms in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, distribute even some of that.
But do not hesitate to give alms; you will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity.
Keep a close watch on yourself, my son, in everything you do, and discipline yourself in all your conduct.
Do to no one what you yourself dislike. Do not drink wine till you become drunk, nor let drunkenness accompany you on your way.
Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing.
Whatever you have left over, give away as alms; and do not begrudge the alms you give.
Seek counsel from every wise man, and do not think lightly of any advice that can be useful.
At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans