Ashes R Us

So on Ash Wednesday a couple members of the British media thought Vice President Joe Biden’s ashes were a “bruise.” I could rail against the ever-widening disconnect between the secular media and the liturgical calendar. I could rant about the number of news outlets that claim Roman Catholics are the only ones who mark Ash Wednesday. But I’m not.

Because the real controversy, in my mind, is the lousy job Biden’s priest did in administering the ashes. Any priest can make a smudge. It takes a true artiste like myself to make an acceptable cross on a parishioner’s forehead. And let’s be honest. Biden’s receding hairline presents the perfect canvas. There are no golden locks standing in the way; no bangs to contend with. So I’m not sure what the problem was.

For the record (and I mean that in a news reporting kind of way), the media mavens in question were Sky News correspondents Kay Burley and Greg Milam. Here’s the transcript: Burley asked Milam about the mark as they monitored Biden’s remarks: “What’s happened to his head? I’m sure that’s what everybody’s asking at home.” After a short pause, Milam replied, “Yes, I don’t know. It’s a simple answer. Maybe we’ll get a chance to find out a little later.” Burley then said, “It looks like he walked into a door, doesn’t it? I’m sure that’s one of the questions that the networks will be asking him.”

She’s obviously confused Biden with Gerald Ford. Turns out Burley, though British, is not an Anglican but a (clearly) lapsed Catholic. She quickly apologized saying, “I know I’m a very bad Catholic. I know I should know that today is Ash Wednesday and that’s why he’d got ash across his forehead. I’ve said three Hail Marys, everything is going to be fine.”

Finally, as a reminder that RC’s are not the only ones who mark the first day of Lent with Ash Wednesday, a seminary classmate of mine, the Rev. Lane Hensley, had his picture in the “Ash Thursday” edition of the Chicago Tribune distributing ashes at a train station. You can read about his experiences here.


7 Comments on “Ashes R Us”

  1. An artiste, indeed. On Ash Wednesday, I noticed how the much older and possible much more tired priest at a local parish thumb-smudged foreheads while the much younger and possible much more aesthetically included priest bestowed stock photo quality crosses in ash. The latter were things of beauty indeed.

  2. Nina says:

    Commuter rail next year? Or outside Brewed Awakenings?

  3. Father Tim says:

    Hmmm. Guess I can’t get away with doing this outside of St. Paul’s can I?

  4. Lane Hensley says:

    Totally agree about the artistic quality of the ash cross, although I have to admit that I screwed it up on a few people. And I mean more than dribbling ashes on their noses, which I did a lot. Here’s the question, though: thumb or index finger? I use the index. Just can’t make it work with the thumb.

  5. Father Tim says:

    It’s gotta be the thumb, Lane. Brush back the hair with the ring and middle fingers together and then apply. I find that adding just a touch of oil to the ashes prevents most of the dribbling. Practice on a Mr. Potato head or something.

  6. Jim Cole says:

    Not only do the Sky News people need a crash course in Anglo-Catholicism, they also need to work on their memories. This was the second Ash Wednesday of the Obama presidency, and the second time Vice-President Biden appeared on television with ashes on his forehead. He’s to be commended for his display of faith.

    I really, really enjoyed reading this (as I do all your postings).

  7. Father Tim says:

    Thanks, Jim. I wonder if any of the Episcopalians who’ve occupied the Oval Office ever tried this? I’m thinking not…


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