CULLMAN, Ala. – Gathering together as a school community to observe Ash Wednesday was a bit different on the campus of St. Bernard Prep School as the middle school community socially distanced in the Abbey Church, and the high school did the same in the dining hall to begin the Lenten season.
Fr. Joel Martin, president and headmaster of St. Bernard Prep School, reminded students that the adjustments of life required because of the pandemic affected even Ash Wednesday, as put forth by the Holy See in Rome. While the American method of putting ashes on the forehead in the form of a cross allows the ashes to be visible to others so that the communal, penitential nature of the day might be more readily visible, the adjusted method of distribution during this time of the pandemic is a return to the more traditional manner, and which has remained the practice in much of the Catholic world. Instead of receiving the usual cross of ashes on the forehead, ashes were sprinkled on the crown of the bowed head. And instead of repeating to each person the words “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return,” that phrase from Holy Scripture was said only once before all in the congregation.
“Lent is a time of reflection, to look more deeply at life, to get control of our self by denying some simple pleasures and to expect more acts of goodness from our self,” Fr. Joel said. He challenged everyone to take a moment and look in the mirror, then consider what they’re grateful for in themselves, and also ask what needs to change – how to form good habits and push out bad ones, to love and forgive as Christ does, especially when that is difficult.
Saint Bernard Prep hopes for more normal times, yet it has benefited from the determination to remain open for classes every school day, helping students grow in knowledge and grace, even in the midst of necessary restrictions.