I was very moved by this livejournal post I found, from a college student I know and love. Posting it with her permission.
07:51 pm - Ash Wednesday
It's strange sometimes, how college can feel so much like high school one minute, and so much not like high school the next.
Today's Ash Wednesday, and I went to services because I don't know how not to go. I wouldn't feel whole, or complete, or Christian or whatever. And I sat in a chapel with stained glass windows and a bunch of people my own age listening to a vaguely boring sermon by a person with a weird accent. Then I got the dust to dust schpiel and got my ashen cross, and got sent into the world to observe a holy lent. And on the way out, I talked to a teacher of mine and a couple of friends who were also cross-laden, and then I went to class.
But when I came outside, I was the only black-crossed kid. the only one that I saw all day. And I spent the day with a couple of jokes and ubiquitous questions, like "hey, you've got something on your forehead" and "I totally didn't know you were Catholic." (Picture me screaming in my head I'm not Catholic! I'm not! I'm not! I'm an Episcopalian! We're spiffy and like women!)
And then I got a couple of "you actually believe that shit?" questions, and a bunch of confused looks, and I felt alone. A couple people looked at me, and in some vague hearkening to their life with their parents, would say "oh, I'll go to services later." And I realized that I was alone. That I was among a very, very small group of people around who actually, in the words of one friend, believe this shit. And I never realized how nice it was, how comforting, to not have to explain that to people on this day, back in Hearst Hall.
Every Ash Wednesday, they read the passage about "do not pray in the streets so others may hear you" and "do not moan and groan when you fast". I always have interpreted that as a reason to wash off my cross after church. To leave it on has felt like I was bragging, or advertising. Today I left it on, in an act of twisted penance, knowing that some of my atheist friends will honestly never really get me, now that they know that I truly do believe all this shit. I've kept it hidden, to protect myself, to pretend that I'm normal, and show the same distain for organized religion that all college students are somehow supposed to show for authority. But I'm not that kid, and now everyone knows.
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.