Today I was walking the streets with the goofiest of smiles because for the first time in my life I was a little embarrassed … okay a lot embarrassed by having the cross drawn across my forehead.
Allow me to give a little history here. It is Ash Wednesday and every year as Catholics we begin Lent with Ash Wednesday. What happens is that the priest will draw a cross on your forehead and say the words, “From Dust you came and to dust you will return” my loose version, can’t seem to remember the words word for word. This happens for all young and old.
And so I have been fine with this tradition all my life, and never have I been embarrassed by it before, until today.
Why you ask. Well first off I had all about forgotten about the cross until I hit the streets and then to say I was stared at would be mildly putting it. But the stares got so bad I wanted to know what was up. So I got my mirror out and there it was. I must say this priest was a lot more generous than most. The cross looked huge, and I was tempted, very tempted to just get rid of it.
But then I thought to myself, why should I? I am not interfering with anybody’s freedoms having it on my forehead. So I controlled the urge to run off to the nearest bathroom and sort it.
As all this was going on in my poor head, and the incessant staring continued, I for the first time understood and respected the many Muslim women who wear their religion with pride! I got a new respect for their love and commitment to their faith and their fearless display of both. It is not easy to walk around this city displaying belief in anything, and it takes guts to do so.
Now I am wondering if this makes me a bad Christian? I didn’t get rid of the cross, but I am feeling awfully self-conscious. And since I am very human, I want to find, something or someone to blame, but who or what will it be? Maybe for penance I should permanently tattoo the cross somewhere on my person.
I am actually ashamed that I am embarrassed. In my hometown of Kampala, nobody would have given me a second glance, which is how I managed to never feel self conscious about this very Catholic ritual before. Somehow people just understood and never seemed to need an explanation. Maybe we have more understanding of the weird.
This experience has managed to not only make me feel very bad but to make me feel I need to explain myself to people. I don’t particularly like the feeling, nor do I want a repeat. Next year, I’ll be sure to go for the late evening mass, that way only a handful of people will see me when I leave the church. Yes I am a coward, but hey they do live longer!