Today is Ash Wednesday, which I had thought was a Holy Day of Obligation, but which turns out is not. Nevertheless, I have always gone to Mass on Ash Wednesday, as it is really the only time of year I can wear a physically external sign of my faith and talk about it in a way that is not construed (or miscontrued) as prosthelytizing.
Because of a faculty meeting that would have ended too late for me to actually get to Mass this evening, Ed and I went to Mass at 9 a.m. this morning, which meant I was walking around with ashes on my forehead all day.
I encountered the following:
- 3 folks expressed surprise (or something similar) in not realizing that today was Ash Wednesday. (This is the reaction I normally get; it's a derivative of, "Oh, today's Ash Wednesday/I forgot today was Ash Wednesday!");
- 2 students around campus asked me "what was up with the ashes/stuff" on my forehead.
- 2 students in my class told me (in the "in case you don't know" tone of voice) that I had something smeared on my forehead.
- One student told me before class started, and I was getting some looks, so I started class with, "Before you feel compelled to tell me, yes I know about the ashes on my forehead, and yes, today is Ash Wednesday," which some folks were a bit unclear about, and which I was happy to answer, at which point I included the I-am-not-trying-to-convert-anyone disclaimer.
- Another student came in late and told me about "the stuff" on my forehead, which was a bit frustrating, but what're you going to do.
I've never not had people known "what was up with the ashes." Utah is indeed insulated.