Today is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the holiest season in the Catholic faith, and also my favorite time of the year. But the reasons behind that title have actually evolved since I was a kid and Easter to me meant chocolate and my birthday, although to be honest they still do make the list, but rather at the bottom as opposed to the top. Lent (and obviously Easter) remind me of being a human being, what it is that it means to be a part of a community, to be a sister, a friend, a stranger.
Easter traditions in the Church have changed over the centuries, before Holy Saturday was the day when confirmandants became Catholics, the first time that they could call themselves Christians and that they could say or do certain Catholic traditions was Easter Sunday. It used to be that each day of Lent, Catholics were supposed to fast (one regular meal and two meals half the normal size, so you’re basically eating only two meals during the forty days of Lent) and Fridays were supposed to be meatless (fish didn’t count as meat), but now it is only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday that Catholics are supposed fast and be meatless. You still are supposed to attend reconciliation at least once during the Lenten season. Lately I’ve seen/heard more of a push to do something extra for Lent, meditate more, pray more, pray for others more than give something up.
So I went today for Ash Wednesday Mass in the Crypt in the back of Myeong Dong Cathedral, it’s always a breath taking experience for me, even though it’s probably one of the simpler crypts that I have ever been inside (and it’s the only building that I ever worry about hitting my head on the ceiling), probably because my Saint, Saint Hong Gum Ju, is buried there, along with many of the other Korean saints and martyrs. The most interesting part of attending Ash Wednesday Mass today was that the priests made the Sign of the Cross in ashes in my hair instead of on my forehead.
After an early lunch at Myeong Kyo Ja, I met up with a friend of mine to go to the protest at the Japanese Embassy. Some Canadian guy gave a nice, practiced speech pledging to share the stories of the halmonis whenever and wherever he could; a sweet-faced high school student said that he would make sure that his contemporaries would know the truth; a group of Japanese men who were children at the time of the occupation apologized for the actions of their government and at the same time realized that their apology would not be the same as coming from the Japanese government. (Funny story: as I saw the men get up in front of the crowd, I mentioned to my friend that I wished/hoped there would be a Korean translation for me to understand and this older man walked by and handed me a paper [in Korean] about the men) Amesty International was around taking pictures of people with these butterflies that would eventually somewhere in Seoul be made into a collage to show support for the halmonis. So if you’re in Seoul later this year, you just may see a lovely picture of me with an AI butterfly.