Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashes at the Debate?

Tonight's version of the wafer-watch sideshow (or the display of the lapel flag pin)  is whether any of the candidates will wear ashes on his forehead. 

I don't know why this is an issue. Catholics (and other Christians) receive a cross of ash on their forehead to remind them of their frailty at the beginning of Lent.  It's a popular practice, probably because ashes are simple and concrete and speak pretty clearly to people's hearts.  For Catholics, "getting ashes" is not a requirement; Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation (but we sure don't get these crowds at my parish for Ascension Thursday).

Ashes do not confer special powers, they are simply a sign, like a reindeer holiday sweater.  Their presence or absence should not take our attention from the serious issues that will (hope springs eternal) dominate the debates tonight.

On the other hand, if you talk like a sanctimonious jerk, yes, the ashes will sort of intensify that impression.  And it might be easier to get rid of the ashes.