By Debbie Shannon, Center Coordinator – St. Peter’s

I have never really enjoyed wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday, and so, it came as quite a surprise when a group of students began to beg Fr. Anthony to add an early morning Mass to the schedule for today.  Students DO NOT like early morning anything!  Why wouldn’t they prefer the 6pm Mass?  According to them, they like to get their ashes early so they can wear them all day.

I just didn’t get it.  Anyone who knows me, and plenty of the students will chuckle at this, knows that a dirty Debbie is almost an oxymoron.  Mrs. Debbie does not do dirty anything. The primary task I was given when I first arrived on the job at St. Peter’s was to ‘clean it up!’

Nonetheless, every year, I choose to begin my Lenten journey by receiving ashes at Mass on Ash Wednesday.  I know it is not a holy day of obligation and I could avoid the messy issue by not participating, but I get in line with everyone else and receive the mark. While some of our students may love touting their Catholic look on our primarily protestant Baylor campus as an opportunity to open dialogue, (Did you know you have something black all over your forehead?), I self-consciously endure the looks and comments as the opening to a season of sacrifice, self-denial and penance.

Over the years, as my faith has matured, I have learned to recognize it as a very good opportunity for some serious reflection.  Here are a few gems that Ash Wednesday has made me ponder in years past.  I am sure God will provide a wonderful new image for me this year as well.

  • Can I wear ashes as a fraternal connection with my impoverished brothers around the world who have no option but to live in filth today.
  • What if my sins “showed”?  What if each one created a visible stain on my skin?
  • Why am I so self-conscious about looking funny, different or even “Catholic”?
  • I have always envisioned that John the Baptist must have been a mess! And yet, people flocked to hear his message. Can I trust that God’s light shining through me will eclipse my own weak and shabby image?

St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center will indeed have an early morning Mass with distribution of ashes at 7am on Ash Wednesday this year.  We will also have one at 6pm.  (There will NOT be the usual 12:15pm Mass and lunch fellowship.)



  1. Thanks, Debbie!!! Last year I was thrilled & privileged to attend Mass and Ash Wed. services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC. The only service our itinerary permitted was 8 a.m. Like you, I thought, “All day?? I’m a tourist –and ashes, too?” It turned out to be one of the most wonderful spiritual experiences ever. Not only was I inspired by the packed cathedral with four lines going out the doors, but the rest of the day, walking the streets of NY practically every third person among the hundreds/ thousands we encountered had ashes on their foreheads. It was amazing!!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Mama Debs! I really like your second bullet point and will definitely be contemplating that this Lenten season!

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