Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I attended Mass early this morning to avoid the crush of the noontime and evening services. Ash Wednesday isn't a holy day of obligation, but many Filipinos make it a point to go to church and get "ashed" anyway. The 6:00am Mass at Sacred Heart Parish wasn't exactly packed, but it was full enough for a weekday that we used the main church instead of the chapel.

Getting "ashed": in Bisaya, the word is "badlis", that is "to mark." One would expect sombre solemnity of the occasion, but my friends and I used to have a good laugh about this. Some ministers leave a bigger mark than others. And what about bald people? Do they get a bigger mark than everyone else, owing to their larger surface area?

I guess this is what I like about being a Catholic. Even a rite that carries a grim reminder -- "Dust thou art, and to dust you shall return" -- is marked by the comic. We slap ashes on our faces, like little children smearing war paint. This, too, is play; and we are going to war against ourselves.

Lent is a time for denial and sacrifice. Rather than focusing on the discomfort, over the years, I've learned to make a game out of it: I will not play video games today (but sometimes, I do); I will not drink Coke today (but sometimes, I do). Some days I make good on my promise, sometimes I don't. And I make a mark on my mental scoreboard. I hope I'm making progress, and I hope some day, I'll "level-up."

This is how I have come to love Lent.

My sacrifices for this season:

* No Facebook throughout Lent.
* Write at least 500 words of story every day.
* Smile and keep quiet when my temper looks like it will get the better of me.

1 comment:

  1. This is what I like about living on the planet Earth. We will be going to Ash Wednesday Mass at 5:00 PM which will be 6:00 AM Thursday in Philippines......24 hours after you went and it's still Ash Wednesday.