(RNS1-FEB28) A man receives ashes on Ash Wednesday at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in 2010. Christians are finding alternative ways to observe the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence that begins on Ash Wednesday. For use with RNS-ALTERNATE-LENT, transmitted Feb. 28, 2011. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz.

A man receives ashes on Ash Wednesday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 2010. Christians are finding alternative ways to observe the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence that begins on Ash Wednesday. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz.

T.S. Eliot to start us off this “Ash Wednesday,” of course:

“Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence…”

Indeed, there is not. For example…

Pope Francis is not giving up interviews for Lent

The pontiff spoke to a leading Italian daily and hit on just about every topic imaginable: defending the church’s response to the sex abuse crisis, welcoming open discussion in the church, face-palming over the idea of just a couple “non-negotiable” issues for Catholics, his distaste for his own celebrity, the impossibility of visiting his ill sister in Argentina, the role of women in the church and much more. Check out our Twitter feed for highlights, and Gerry O’Connell has an English-language write-up at Vatican Insider.

Oh, and the pope even has a new Italian magazine dedicated just to him. It’s not “Rolling Stone,” but “Il Mio Papa” knows a trend when they see it.

The Ash Wednesday Selfie is a thing…

But is it a good thing? National Catholic Reporter puts out a call:

And Busted Halo notes that it has had the #showusyourash hashtag for a few years now. Or is it #ashtag?

Anyway, you all go first…But first, check out our answers to every question you have about Ash Wednesday.

What will you give up for Lent?

If you do that sort of thing, that is. The gang at Christianity Today point to the Twitter word cloud revealing our choices for self-denial over the next 40 days and the top picks focus on food and tech: chocolate, alcohol, Twitter, social networking, and swearing.

Lent as a sign of Christian unity

Yes, the manifestations of Lent the practices and the names for the season and its feasts vary, as Dale Coulter recounts in this interesting essay at First Things. But there is a fundamental unity in it:

Receiving the sign of the cross with ash on Ash Wednesday marks Christians as belonging to a people with a cultural identity that honors the local without sacrificing the global—indeed, catholic—nature of that identity.

Do Catholics have a drinking problem?

Robert Christian at the journal Millennial know what the Catholic Church needs to give up, and it’s a too-easy acceptance of drinking, as he writes in this provocative, lengthy, and well-timed essay:

“One is more likely to see devout Catholics being flip about drinking—or even romanticizing and glorifying it—than confronting the nihilism, escapism, and despair that are a big part of our nation’s drinking culture and the wreckage that it leaves in its wake.”

 The State Department’s Niebuhrian-in-Residence speaks

Shaun Casey is a theologian and seminary professor and now head of the State Department’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives. He talks to Religion & Politics about his job, and the mix of theology and politics:

“If we’re going to make progress on human rights, poverty, conflict, then we have to engage the religious communities who cut across those sectors. To the extent that I can marginally contribute—that’s what I’m going to do here. It’s a very Niehburian vision. It’s not time to fall back on false pieties, nor to become isolationist, but to directly engage a very complicated world.”

Giving away guns to preach the Gospel?

Baptists in Kentucky are doing it, practicing a form of “affinity evangelism” by sponsoring “gun giveaways” at churches. “One of the things that we’ve learned in doing these is that when you do an affinity event, you have to have a hook that draws the unchurched,” explained Chuck McAlister, former host of a hunting show and head of the new initiative. “In the event of a Second Amendment rally the number of unchurched men that show up will be in direct proportion to the number of guns you give away.”

The Best of the Rest from RNS:

That’s all until this time tomorrow — so don’t give us up for Lent. In fact, sign up for this daily religion news roundup in the box below. It’s free and it’s informative, and no ashes required.

David Gibson

Categories: Culture

David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He is a national reporter for RNS and has written two books on Catholic topics, the latest a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.

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