This image from an article in ‘The Express’ online today brought back memories of my Roman Catholic childhood; of queuing up, offering our little foreheads to receive that dusty, purplish smudge across and down, unaffected by the sombre reminder of our own mortality delivered by the priest.

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” 

( Latin to English translation: “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” – from Genesis 3:19.) 

I guess I was too young for that!

Instead I recall the strangeness of the ritual, an ambivalent frisson of embarrassment and feeling special, emblazoned for a whole day with a symbol of that, and I’m sure I recall an urge to giggle each time.

Whenever Ash Wednesday comes round, I always regret not including it in my first novella, ‘So Sister.‘ I am not sure why my protagonist, Madeleine, experiences her First Confession and Holy Communion in the book, and not the poignant tradition that left its mark on me beyond the gritty, dark cross I wore with self-conscious pride until bedtime. I think she and I would have enjoyed it.