An Ash Wednesday reflection

By Vicki Vicars, Mission, Equity & Resilience Dir.

The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday reminds us to give alms without blowing a trumpet, pray in the privacy of our rooms so that we don’t stand out before others, and fast without looking gloomy. 

This gospel message reminds us that the work that we do, the prayers that we offer, and the fasting that we commit to is really meant for God. These three spiritual practices are meant to deepen our union with the God who created us.

That’s the goal I believe we’re called to seek on this Lenten journey — union with God over accolades from others. Perhaps this gives us insight into what St. Angela Merici may have been thinking when she said, “Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve the poor than they have of your service.”  She knew what God calls us to in this gospel reading. 

The Ursuline charism of respect gently challenges us to uphold the dignity of those we work with and walk with. When we’re grounded in the message of the gospel, St. Angela Merici, and the Ursuline charism, we clearly can become a witness to God’s kingdom of mercy, goodness, and justice.  

For nearly 150 years the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown and all those involved in their many ministries have been faithfully giving alms, praying, and fasting to serve God and His people. May our work as staff, employees and Associates continue to do the same.

God bless your Lenten journey. 


Marked by Ashes
palm-fireRuler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.
This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.
We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.
On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.
We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.
Walter Brueggemann Taken from his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), pp. 27-28.