The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 23, 2001 Issue

Ashes focus us on our 'purpose'

During Lent, we have a special opportunity to consider how we live

By Dan Malcore

As a grade school student, I thought receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday was a good way to start out Lent because you really sacrificed the way you looked all day.

Even at that young age, when I was so focused on the ashes of that day, I felt the real meaning of Lent meant giving up something special.

Eating fish on Fridays was never a sacrifice for me because as a child I was allergic to fish and had to eat meat. When people would complain about fish on Fridays I could never understand that.

As years rolled by I lost my allergy to seafood and made up for lost time eating perch and sea burgers at will. I knew I had to make a deeper commitment for Lent because seafood was just too enjoyable.

When I think about the sobering phrase "you are dust and to dust you shall return," I think of the word "purpose."

I try to focus on what God wanted me to accomplish in my life. My children have helped me understand this.

Like me, my children have grown up in a funeral home environment. Children who grow up in funeral service have a dramatically different view of the end of life.

When my young children would see someone in a casket they would never want to know the obvious - like what did they die from. They wanted to hear their life story.

I would always tell them all the wonderful things the person accomplished in their life. I think about Lent the same way.

I think what really matters is:

-- First, what kind of relationship I have with God .

-- Second, what kind of husband, father, and grandfather I am.

Is it more important for me to go home after work, relax and watch the evening news or should I rush over to watch the second half of my son's soccer match or my daughter's basketball game?

Is it more important that we "touch base" with each other on the run or make it a golden rule that we eat one meal a day as a family, starting with a prayer of thanksgiving and ending with "tell me your high and low for the day"?

Is it more important that I work on the computer until it's time to go to bed or is it better to sit down with my wife for at least one hour so we can catch up on each other's lives, sharing the joys and concerns of the day, consoling each other's worries and putting life back in perspective so we are ready for a new day?

Is it more important for me to relax on the few weekends I don't have to work or travel four hours on a Friday night in the dark to spend the weekend with one of our adult children who lives out of state and yearns to see our faces?

Lent is more about what I need to do and less about what I need to give up. It's a time to reflect on where I've been and where I need to go because in the end, and in the ashes, I will be held accountable for my life and what I've done with it.

(Malcore is a member of St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay. He is the owner of Malcore Funeral Home in Green Bay.)

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