My wife, two oldest daughters, and I piled into the car and drove over to St. Joseph in Egypt (that’s in Ohio, not Africa) for Ash Wednesday mass last night. It would be perfectly logical for someone to ask why we drove to a tiny parish miles away when our own parish is only two blocks away and has mass at the same time.
The last time that I went to mass at my own parish on Ash Wednesday was several years ago. The Coordinator of Religious Education was very excited, and we found recently confirmed high school sophomores lining the center aisle. If you entered a pew from the center aisle, the sophomore would request to stay in the aisle seat. Something was going on, but I didn’t know what.
When it came time for the Our Father, the sophomores took one step into the center aisle and joined hands across the aisle, pressing their neighbors in the pews to hold their hands as well. I was not impressed by this para-liturgical innovation.
I haven’t been back on Ash Wednesday since, for fear that I might witness such a spectacle again and be moved to despair that my parish has any liturgical sense at all.