'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return'
There are two significant events happening tomorrow on February 14, and both are about love.
The first is the feast of St. Valentine, a saint who is a martyr for the scandalous way he challenged the church and the world. He did 'horrible' things like perform weddings for soldiers (who were forbidden to marry) and ministered to Christians persecuted under the Romans Empire. Valentines was shamed for how he approached God in the world, and today we have an unofficial holiday that celebrates love as we follow in his footsteps... how ironic.
The second is Ash Wednesday. It's a coincidence that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentines Day, and yet our current culture and church continues to shame folks for they understand love, yet say to the community 'but you are welcome in our church.'
Last year, LCM at Marquette was one of the official 200 places in the world that offered GLITTER ASHES as part of Ash Wednesday. No one was forced to take them. Now one was encouraged to receive them. They were simply present. The reaction??
For those that received the ashes mixed with glitter, it was a sign of HOPE. One ally said upon receiving the glitter ashes 'I really appreciated being able to show support and solidarity with a marginalized community in a simple way. They were probably the most meaningful ashes I've ever gotten and I think it was a very Jesuit thing to do.'
For those that heard about it only after the day, or did not participate themselves, there was a lot of JUDGEMENT. There was judgement on our theology, on our placement of the ashes in a public space, on our lack of educating recipients beforehand, of neglecting to remember our place on a Catholic campus.
We offer glitter ashes in LCM because the church has shamed the LGBTQ+ community for far too long in how they understand love in their lives. We do it in the way we study the Bible, the way we talk about family at church, the way we limit LGBTQ+ leadership (or make their hoops to jump through taller and smaller).
Ashes are a statement of suffering and death. If the church is willing to listen, then the LGTBQ+ community has a lot to tell us about the suffering and death that pervades their lives as they continue to cling to their place in the church.
Glitter is a statement of hope... which does not despair. LCM will continue to shift our norms in worship, community, liturgy and fellowship to make room for the LGBTQ+ community. We do it as a statement of hope that someday we truly WILL be a welcoming church that accepts ALL of you for who you are with grace, gratitude, and gift.
Glitter signals our promise to repent, to show up, to witness, to work...
Glitter NEVER gives up... and neither do we.
Tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday and the Feast of St. Valentine, may your wear the sign of the cross that commands you to love boldly and reminds you that you are from dust, and to dust you shall return.