It does seem to trivialize the ritual into yet another Internet fad along the lines of the “mannequin” one.
On the other hand, I’d rather have a “proud to be Catholic” meme than an “I’m ashamed to be a Catholic, let me not even get ashes, or wipe them off as soon as I get out of the church to avoid snarky remarks about priests molesting kids” one.
I have no strong opinion either way about this. I could see arguments for both sides. On one hand, doing something like this could be seen as attention seeking and self-serving. On the other, maybe it could encourage others to go and attend mass today when they would not otherwise. I will not endorse this trend, but I will not speak out against it either.
Seriously though, I think it’s a bad idea to broadcast a selfie of yourself doing something good. Jesus spoke at times against making a display of virtue and faith. Better to simply live virtuously and faithfully.
We shouldn’t be so quick to assume the character of heart or intentions of those who choose to do this. For some it may be a way of evangelizing.
For others who socialize/live mainly on social media, it may be a form of penance or humility to share a picture of themselves in which they acknowledge that they are a sinner, that they have a Savior, and that He marks them as his own.
in our current world where many people “live and die” by how they represent themselves online, it may in fact be the most outward sign of humility that they can do.
It is not the action, but the intent behind it that matters. To post the picture to impress your friends with your overwhelming holiness could indeed be vain and pharasaical; yet others could post the picture with a penitential intention to humble themselves and be honest about who they are rather than only posting the pictures of themselves that paint the picture they want people to think is true.
I doubt most of the people doing this are thinking either of these things. They just think “Ooh, cool Twitter hashtag! I got ashes, too, let me join!” and, sadly, pay it as little thought as they did to the Mannequin fad. I think this was also the case for most of the people who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, a wish to join the fad, not an actual commitment to the cause of helping people with ALS.
I doubt this does anything to really evangelize anyone, though in parts of the US where Catholics are a small minority it may help to at least increase awareness that “Catholics exist and are normal people, not a bunch of crazy wackos”. It may increase the number of Catholics who get ashes today, but I doubt it will increase the number who get ashes out of a true humble, penitential intent.
This also reminds me of a topic elsewhere on CAF asking why secularists don’t just outlaw Christianity outright. I think the answer for most is that they don’t care if the Christian faith is legal or not, as long as they can make it so irrelevant that it doesn’t matter. They’re fine with the Christian religion, or the whole concept of religion, as existing as a hobby that people dabble in on weekends, but that has no effect on secular policymakers.
All in all, I think if this hashtag has any effect at all, it may be a net negative, by promoting the “religion as a casual hobby” attitude. So I guess that on second thought I am going away from supporting it.
Social Media is highly utilized (and arguably predominantly) by the young. It is used to create a public “image” or “brand” that the users wish to put forward to represent who they want to be perceived as. To publicly declare your Catholicism online can often generate a barrage of hatred directed at you, so many people avoid letting that fact become known.
I am a youth minister in a predominantly Protestant area. Our youth struggle a lot with having the courage to “admit” that they are Catholic. Most of their Instagram and Facebook pages have no mention of their faith at all.
In discussions in the past, I have asked them, “how long would someone have to scroll through your social media pages to know that you’re a fan of a certain sports team? Or that you’re a cheerleader? Or that you like certain cars?” and the answer is not far at all.
I then asked them, “and how long would someone have to scroll to know that you’re a follower of Christ? Or that you belong to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that He established?” and they all got quiet.
They then said that they wished they could, but they don’t want to be teased, or that they are afraid of being questioned about Catholicism and not having the answers. They said they wished there were more Catholics in our area so they didn’t have to “hide” what church they went to.
So for these kids, posting to an #ashtag to social media could be the equivalent of social media suicide. To post it would t be something they are prideful of; rather it is mortifying to the “image” many of them have established for themselves.
I am not at all saying that some people are not using it as a vain status symbol or to try to paint themselves as holy when the rest of their lives are anything but. I would struggle to assign a percentage or proportion estimate of the world in general that is in this camp versus the camp that my youth are in.
My caution posted in my previous comment was not to say that the vain are the minority, but that the instant assumption of vanity is sometimes misplaced and should be avoided without looking at the individual and the intention.
As someone living in a mission diocese, the posting of an #ashtag can indeed be a reminder to other Catholics, as well as a sign of solidarity and give others the encouragement to put their fears aside and to go to mass today instead of avoiding it because they don’t want to be asked at the grocery store or school or work if they know they have dirt on their head.
Also, because of the scarcity of Catholics in our area, the ashes and the questions they often bring are a perfect opportunity to talk about our faith. For some people whose secular community is interacted with more online than in the real world, the #ashtag is an opening of themselves to be questioned and an opportunity to teach.
I do think that “admitting” to being Catholic could be act of humility in some situations. such as the one you describe.
However, I personally stay away from social media for two main reasons: (1) I just don’t find that much interesting about my personal life that’s worth proclaiming in public. That being I said I do dabble on photography as a hobby and I’ve thought of joining Instagram to post photos, but then I get to (2) Concerns over privacy and detracting from my professional reputation if I post something I later regret.
I also am very reluctant to disclose personal information even on anonymous Net fora like this one. I just recently put my general location in my profile, just to put some of my posts into a context.
I agree with you. Social media is a vain and dangerous place. I too have come to avoid it as much as I can. I now rarely use it outside of using it as a platform to spread our faith. I wish our youth group kids (or anbody for that matter) weren’t so wrapped up in it, but because they are, I use it as a way to reach out to them and fill their Instagram feeds with Church history, apologetics, and encouraging scripture.
It is an effective way to meet them where they are instead of only having influence for 1.5 hours a week at youth group.
I don’t know, I try to avoid stuff like that but to be honest with you I think if you are going to do that you should explain what those ashes mean it shouldn’t be :hey look at me I just got ashes"! It should be like “hey look, this is remind you you’re going to die”.
I think you may be right. I am always shy about getting ashes, I hate being the center of attention. Walking to the church today I saw probably a hundred people with ashes. I was far less shy about it by the time I got there. I really did get my courage from other Christians.
I got really lucky and there was a confessional open at the time as well (It’s usually packed this time of year). Overall I’m glad I went. Someone was tapping me on the shoulder to go. I’m glad I listened.