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Scott P. Richert

Ash Wednesday (Anticipated)

By February 26, 2014

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MASSACHUSETTS (February 26, 2014)—Catholics around the United States woke up this morning with a sense of dread. When is Ash Wednesday? Had they missed it? After a brief moment of panic, they realized that they hadn't noticed anyone wearing ashes yet this year. (There is, after all, always that one guy at work who insists on keeping his ashes on all day on Ash Wednesday.)

A quick sigh of relief gave way to a new concern: Today is Wednesday! Could it be...?

"This happens every year," Fr. Leonard McFeeley told me. "Sometimes they'll even come banging on our door here at Our Lady of the Golf Course two weeks before Lent starts. It's locked, of course—my interpretive dance lessons are on Wednesdays. But for several years now, I've skipped my lesson the week before Ash Wednesday, because it's so nice to see all of the people I haven't seen since last year, when they showed up a week before Ash Wednesday."

In the past, Father McFeeley says, "I have gently explained to my prodigal sons and daughters that they've arrived a week early. But no matter how much I praise them for their anticipation of Ash Wednesday and urge them to return in a week, very few actually do. And some get downright angry when I tell them that I won't have any ashes to hand out until the next week."

Ash Wednesday Priest
In front of a Lenten purple background, Father McFeeley demonstrates his form for imposing ashes.
Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images

So this year, Father McFeeley has a plan. "For pastoral reasons, the Church sometimes lets us anticipate a liturgical celebration. Saturday vigil Masses are an example. So, I thought, here's a perfect reason to do so! I've got all these parishioners flocking to the church, and if I don't do something for them, who knows when I'll see them again?"

"Well," he added after a brief pause, "I'll probably see them again next year, a week before Ash Wednesday, but that just proves the point, doesn't it?"

So today, if you show up at OLGC (at the corner of Mashie and Niblick roads), Father McFeeley will be ready for you. "People are busy, and, since it's not really Ash Wednesday, it doesn't feel quite right to do this inside of the church, so I'll be standing on the front steps of Our Lady of Good Counsel with a bowlful of ashes for anyone who wants to receive them today."

"Of course," Father McFeeley continued, "I came up with this on the fly last night, and forgot that I didn't have any ashes to use. We're collecting last year's palms on this coming Sunday, and burning them on Shrove Tuesday. But then I realized I had an old copy of the 1962 Missale Romanum gathering dust. I won't be needing that again. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone!"

This isn't the first time Father McFeeley has come up with an unorthodox solution to a pastoral problem. Last year, when a full third of his registered parishioners showed up on Divine Mercy Sunday expecting to celebrate Easter, Father McFeeley improvised and offered the Easter Sunday Mass all over again.

"It's all about serving the people," Father McFeeley said. "I just ask myself, 'What would Jesus do?'"

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February 26, 2014 at 1:47 pm
(1) MJK says:

Given that photo, I think I’ve encountered this Fr. McFeeley (or possibly his brother) more often than I care to remember.

He was always very pastoral so much so he would invariably contradict himself depending on his audience. In fact, he’d walk around the church asking his parishioners: how I’m I doing? Come to think of it, this Fr. McFeeley has a strong resemblance to NYC mayor Ed Koch…if confusion and self-esteem were virtues boy this McFeeley fellow would be full of it…this post makes one smile and frown simultaneously!

February 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm
(2) phil says:

wait, IS that Ed Koch?

February 28, 2014 at 11:15 am
(3) Lepanto says:

Wow, from the offensive photo I thought this was going to be another article mocking the Church and the priesthood. Seriously, were there no better photos available?

February 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm
(4) John O'Brien says:

The idea of Burning the 1962 Missale Romanum for any reason by anyone that claims to be Roman Catholic is quite shocking. However, after 40 or so odd years of the trite, puerile nonsense that’s peddled in place of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass I shouldn’t be shocked at all.

February 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm
(5) John O'Brien says:

ůmay I also add trite, puerile, Protestant nonsense

February 28, 2014 at 3:25 pm
(6) Sr. Umbrage says:

It is nice to see that our Traditional Catholics have a sense of humor! Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris.

February 28, 2014 at 3:53 pm
(7) MJK says:

Yeah…that’s right..Sr. Umbrage…there is much to laugh about in today’s church…Frontline just televised a real belly chuckle of a program…

In fact, after watching it one could argue quite convincingly that in order to be Catholic today you better have a sense of humor because if you don’t…

…but with every hearty chuckle about the nonsense being espoused today, there are folks like Mr. O’Brien who have may missed the intent of Scott’s piece because, given the absurdly silly stuff that’s happening under the guise of mercy, he thought this story true, and may be what struck a chord as amusing to us wasn’t that funny to him…Oh, but that doesn’t matter because as you so snarkily point our he’s just a traditionalist Catholic without a sense of humor…which made me laugh even more because you seem to be using it as other than a badge of honor one should aspire to…

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