John McCullagh March 23, 2006
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A few weeks back, on the first day of Lent, a Dublin journalist excitedly penned an article concerning the health of An Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn. Rumours abounded that the Teflon king was unwell, and didn’t he appear on Irish TV that very day speaking from the Dail, sporting a serious-looking bruise in the middle of his forehead?

Wouldn’t you think his editor – or some charitable person on that newspaper’s staff – would point out to the rookie that Bertie is a practicing Catholic: that Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence: and a time to acknowledge one’s own status as a sinner, in need of forgiveness and repentance – that being the purpose of the ‘ashes’ on one’s forehead on that particular day?

Little charity from his colleagues for the acolyte!

No more from the priest in my little story!

Everybody, I think, now accepts the role of the committed and trained Eucharistic Minister who helps to distribute the communion wafer.

Now ashes on Ash Wednesday must be a different matter entirely. Sure, aren’t they the mark of the sinner, so who better than a known sinner to assist in this process? I mean, don’t we all know that the priest’s no sinner?

Father Donnelly was donning his robes in the sacristy and preparing the ashes in a saucer, with the help of his faithful sacristan. The latter group of people, as an archetype, you understand, is usually better characterised by subservience rather than intelligence. And here it was no different.

‘The chapel’s full, Father,’ says he, ‘and it’s a cold morning!

You know, if I knew what to say I could maybe help with the distribution of the ashes?’

‘Perish the thought!’ immediately ran through the priest’s brain but he managed to suppress the words. A look of contempt suffused his countenance. He looked down on the other.

‘You were born an eejit!’ he spat out contemptuously.

‘And you’ll die an eejit!’

Out in the body of the church the priest blessed the ashes and began to distribute them at the altar rails. He intoned the Latin words as he did so, words if understood in English would translate along the lines of ..

‘Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thy shalt return.’

He looked up only to recognise a familiar figure approach from the other end of the altar. The sacristan was imprinting the foreheads of the kneeling congregation, using a saucer like his own, and a little cork with a cross imprinted upon it.
 

All the while he was intoning the mantra ..

‘You were born an eejit .. and you’ll die an eejit!’

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