Are you a hypocrite for wearing ashes all day?

Today’s reading talks of the private versus the secret life of prayer, alms-giving, and fasting. I say wearing ashes all day is consistent with our call to be evangalists, a form of non-threatening display or invitation for light religious conversation, that is, so long as we wear ashes with reverence and conduct ourselves with a smile and not a long face or sullen mood. Certainly the polls show a majority of Catholics wear their ashes throughout the day, but an Officemate of mine was concerned that by wearing his ashes he would be like those who blare their trumpets before prayer or those who donate out in the public square. Suggestions for a quick assurance to my friend? or should I have washed off the ashes too?

Dear Ian,

Our Lord was concerned that we not let pride ruin our penitential acts. Today in our culture, we are more likely to allow pride and the fear of displeasing others to keep us from wearing a public sign of our faith. Actually, it takes humility and the courage of our convictions to publicly show our faith. Our Lord also said not to hide our faith under a bushel basket. We are to let the light of our faith shine for all to see.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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