The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Ash Wednesday at DePaul: Ashes mark the beginning of a personal journey

A multitude of foreheads marked with ashes marched across DePaul’s Lincoln Park and Loop campuses Wednesday, March 5. Dedicated Catholics and students alike wore these ashes symbolizing the beginning of Lent and the more hopeful prelude to spring – and resurrection.

The ashes are palms from the previous Palm Sunday, burned to motes of black dust, and crossed with a blessing upon the forehead to ignite a new fire, an inward journey.

Jackie Posek, the assistant director of Catholic Campus Ministry at DePaul, said Ash Wednesday is the most popular event for Campus Ministry. About 1,200 people yearly get ashes at DePaul – which are distributed at various venues around the campus. They also get a blessing and a promise. There were 12 ceremonies held on Wednesday. Six of them were Masses; the other six were ecumenical services welcoming all faiths.

“Lent is a wonderful time around the campus,” Posek said. “It’s a time when we simplify our lives and remember that we are all fallible and need help from God. We do that in a very visible way by wearing ashes on our foreheads.”

Ash Wednesday marks a time of spiritual atonement and personal humility.

Posek noted that the tradition of wearing ashes is rooted in a section from the Bible in which God said to Adam, “Until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

In Latin, the ground and dust are called “humus,” which is where the word “humble” comes from.

“In Hebrew culture, people in a state of repentance would wear ashes on their heads,” Posek said. “This was B.C.” Today it is common for people to give up something for Lent.

Posek is giving up Diet Coke for Lent. She is then using the money she would have spent on Diet Coke and turning it over to charity.

“Our culture doesn’t value sacrifice anymore,” Posek said. “So for most of us, this is an unusual feeling because it’s so uncomfortable. It really makes you aware of how much abundance we have.” Posek said that by giving something up, she’ll make more room for God in her life.

Taylor Bourne, a sophomore majoring in Catholic studies, said the primary purpose of Lent is to set the pathway for Christ’s sacrifice.

“I like Lent because you get to suffer like Christ did, kind of along with Christ,” Bourne said. “It really brings you closer to his ministry – his mission of selfsacrifice.”

Bourne is not giving up something. Instead, she is committing to daily charity. “Every day I’m going to try and better somebody’s life during Lent,” Bourne said. “I think I already bettered someone’s life but I can’t say what I did because that’s not what it’s about.”

Michael Von Hoppenrath, a sophomore economics and political science major, served as an alter boy at the 9:30 p.m. student mass.

“For Lent, you should act more like Jesus,” Von Hoppenrath said. “But there are more ways to be like Christ than just giving something up.”

Von Hoppenrath said he is going to love more. “Love is a very conscious choice,” he said. “That’s why we have free will. Without free will, there is no love. So you definitely have the choice to love or not. Without free will, it would just be mindless devotion.”

Jacob Powell, a computer science major, said he thinks the notion of giving something up for Lent is backwards.

“I don’t believe in giving something up for Lent,” he said. “I believe in growing in my relationship with God through new experiences.”

At 9:30 p.m. last Wednesday, DePaul students nearly packed the gothic St. Vincent DePaul Church on Sheffield and Webster.

Father Guillermo “Memo” Campuzano of DePaul, a Vincentian priest, led the student Mass and shared his wisdom in the Campus Ministry before Mass on what Lent is all about. “

Fr. Memo said the secret of Lent is not about sacrifice. It’s about getting free. It’s about recovering the true meaning of our identity. Lent has no official meaning; it’s completely symbolic. It’s about experiencing death, liberation, and upon the eve of Easter, resurrection.

“You achieve freedom by liberating yourself from that which binds you,” Memo said. “We become enslaved by anything that challenges our true identity.”

Father Memo took center stage at the student Mass and described in his homily the three major temptations for college students.

“It is when we partake in these things that we feel lost,” Memo said. “To find God we mend our relationship with him, through bettering ourselves.” He calls them pandemics. They are alcohol consumption, drug abuse and meaningless sex. Memo declared that those are what should be given up.

After the homily, the collectively silent audience goes into a meditation as Memo consecrates the Eucharist. A silence so engrossing, so reflective, an “L” train is heard rumbling past Webster into the Fullerton station like distant thunder.

Memo is not giving up anything for Lent. In fact, during the homily, he insisted he would continue to eat his chocolates, which he loves for a snack. He said he is focused rather on re-establishing his identity collectively within the eyes and hearts of others and building, always building, a stronger relationship with God.

“Sometimes the most tempting things in life come when we are trying to identify who we are,” Memo said. “And the greatest sacrifice is the giving of yourself to others, rather than giving to yourself.”

Lent is a time of building, like spring, the season through which it passes, growth is emphasized.

“It’s about the New Testament, about Jesus,” said Taylor Bourne, who attended the student Mass. “Lent leads up to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us. And because he sacrificed for us, we should sacrifice for the world.”

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