Archdiocese of Chicago


Catholic Chicago Blog

Hosted by the Archdiocese of Chicago

About the Blogger

Fr. Cameli is the Archbishop's Delegate for Formation and Mission.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How the strangest request for ashes taught me to stay on track in Lent

I celebrated my first Ash Wednesday as a priest at Carlo Forlanini Hospital in Rome. As I was going to the patients’ rooms to distribute ashes, a nurse carrying a tray of medicine approached me, “Father, could you give me ashes?” I said, “Yes, of course.” And I proceeded with the formula, “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you will return” and I put ashes on her forehead, which she seemed to receive very devoutly.

When I was finished, she said, “Sì, padre, è vero. La vita è una fregatura. Si muore e tutto è finito.” “Yes, father, it’s true. Life is a rip-off. You die and it’s all over.” I quietly laughed to myself and thought, “She just doesn’t get it. She somehow missed the boat on eternal life.”

Over the years, actually, every Ash Wednesday and beginning of Lent I think of that nurse who didn’t get it. In a strange way, she has become a reminder to me to ask myself a question, “Do I really get it? Do I really remember and know what is happening in this holy season?” She’s a reminder to me not to give myself a pass on those questions.

It’s about death—unto dust you shall return. It’s about sin—repent and believe. We must know our mortality and our sinfulness but not to stay stuck there. When we really know our sin and our death, then we can know and embrace Jesus Christ who is our forgiveness and our life. When we know ourselves as broken and fragile, we can also know ourselves as transformed by the one who “stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection.”

Print RSS

Submit Your Comment

Archdiocese of Chicago

The Archdiocese of Chicago welcomes input in response to the current blog posting.  However, the Archdiocese reserves the right to deny posting any information on the Archdiocesan blog that does not adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Insults, use of ethnic slurs or personal insults, obscenities or any conduct that would not be acceptable to the Archdiocese of Chicago or the Catholic Church in general will not be accepted.

Minors should seek parental permission before submitting a post.

All posts submitted by bloggers will be reviewed and approved by the Communications Department before going live on the website.

Personally identifiable information (first name, last name and e-mail address) will not be sold or otherwise transferred to unaffiliated third parties.

In order to submit a comment, all fields are required.  Only submitter’s first name will be displayed with the comment. You agree that you are responsible for any postings you make, and for any consequences thereof.  You agree that all postings will be in compliance with all applicable local, state, national and international laws, rules and regulations.  The Archdiocese takes no responsibility for third-party content nor does it have any obligation to monitor such third-party content.  By submitting or posting content (“Content”) you grant the Archdiocese a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content.  You represent and warrant that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the rights granted herein to any Content.


  First Name: 

  Last Name: 




Recent Posts

Monday, July 11, 2016 
World Youth Day in Chicago
By Juan Pablo Padilla

Tuesday, July 05, 2016 
Seeking and Living Justice as Neighbors
By Christopher Cox

Monday, June 20, 2016 
Theology of the Body Retreat
By Dawn Fitzpatrick