...and its importance in the life of Catholics, and all Christians. I have been making programmes celebrating the traditional feasts and seasons of the Church for some while now, but there is always more to explore. I am set to make a new series, which you'll be able to watch on EWTN in due course. At a time when our culture is impoverished and children are fed a diet of TV soaps and computer games, families and schools and parish communities are doing a service to humanity in fostering community activities and genuine local traditions that mark the great events of the Christian year and can be shared by everyone.
I was particularly struck this year by being asked - along with other parishioners - to bring along the palm cross from last year's Palm Sunday, to be burned to make ashes for Ash Wednesday. Of course I knew that this is how the ashes are made, but it was made so much more significant by actually bringing my palms along. And I can't have been the only parishioner to bring along quite a few, accumulated over the years - some had been used as bookmarks (one in a Catechism, another in a biography of JPII), two or three had been tucked up behind a picture or crucifix and simply become a fixture...
Some priests go to their Catholic primary school to show the children how the ashes are made: children enjoy the drama of a brazier in the playground and being able to bring along their own palm crosses to burn.
Another important part of Lent is Laetare Sunday, Mothering Sunday. It's NOT just a commercial invention called "Mothers' Day" and its origins are much MUCH older than the 19th century: it irritates me when people repeat the silly idea that it was invented to give servant-girls a day off. It all dates back much longer than that: why did girls want to go home on that particular day? What are its links with Lent, Christian motherhood, springtime, and the dignity of women? (If you want the answers, you should read my book...)