Today I went to a 6:30 PM mass at my itty bitty church in my itty bitty town. It is Ash Wednesday and my church offers two masses so to say there was a crowd is a bit of an understatement. We had to pull out folding chairs for people to sit on the sides of the church. It was a tad bit cramped in the pews – to say the least. I love my tiny church though. I like walking in and spotting familiar faces in every seat. I love my church community. I find them beautiful.
During the priest’s homily, he mentioned how people may look at us funny after mass because of the ash on our foreheads. That may be true, but it isn’t really what I was thinking about while I was sitting there listening. I was pushed up against my family in our pew, and the family behind us was packed in the same way. It was that way for everyone in the church. I sat there and I thought that it was pretty amazing that of all the strangers that may look at us funny later, none of us sitting in the church were going to. We could look at each other and appreciate that we were all there to get black crosses drawn on our foreheads and begin Lent together. It wasn’t like we simply ignored the ashes, like strangers would try to do later, but we appreciated them. We could look at the crosses and remember that we were all there thinking about making our promises. We were all there to commit together and we were in the least judgmental place we could be to do it.
I just think it is beautiful that God gifted me this amazing community to live in. That I can go there and do these things I hold dear to my heart, and know that they understand all of it. When I leave that church people aren’t going to understand the black smudge on my forehead or my necklace of beads with a crucifix hanging from it. I think it is gorgeous the way that God designed the church to be that place for us. To be a sanctuary for those who understand and need others to understand as well.