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Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris

Today is Ash Wednesday. It falls relatively late this year, March 6, as Easter will not arrive until April 21 for those of us in the Western churches.

For me, Ash Wednesday also means it’s time for a rare selfie. This one is quite a disappointment compared to last year’s.

Even after a lot of tinkering with the contrast and exposure, the ashes disappeared into my hairline. I knew I should have gotten a haircut yesterday.

For us Catholics, the current legislation on fasting and abstinence from meat is not particularly onerous. Fasting — which means one full meal and perhaps two small collations that together don’t equal a full meal — is only required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence from meat — the traditional definition of which excludes fish and other seafood — is required only on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. It’s really not a high bar to get over. However, for those of us who are accustomed to indulging nearly every worldly desire, this period of penitence can remain a challenging spiritual exercise.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris.

It’s been suggested the word Carnival comes from the Latin words carne — meat, like in the word carnivore — and vale — farewell, like in the word valediction. I suspect there’s not much evidence supporting this etymology, but it does serve as a helpful reminder of why we may overindulge for a short time before Ash Wednesday. In that spirit, Kathryn cooked us a nice steak dinner last night to help us prepare for Lent.