Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas: The Fascination of Ashes

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*Image: Vanitas by Adriaen van Utrecht (or workshop), 1642 [private collection]

By Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, The Catholic Thing, March 2, 2022

Father Peter Stravinskas holds doctorates in school administration and theology. He is the founding editor of The Catholic Response and publisher of Newman House Press. Most recently, he launched a graduate program in Catholic school administration through Pontifex University.

Rev. Peter M.J. StravinskasWhat is this strange Catholic fascination with ashes?  By day’s end, in the Church of the Holy Innocents three blocks north of Macy’s in Midtown Manhattan, priests will have imposed ashes on the foreheads of thousands of people: fervent Catholics, lukewarm Catholics, apostate Catholics, and non-Catholics! And not only in New York City but all around the world. What power does that smudge of ash exert? Better yet, why?

Consciously or not, I suspect the average person recognizes something primal in the symbol of the ashes, which hints at our own vulnerability and mortality, reminding us that even Americans after a century of science and progress live under a death sentence. …