I've been contemplating this picture:
I got it off Face Book, so it is a public thing. I know the person. I know she is about to receive ashes. I see she now wears a veil. This seems like it should be an intimate moment, not a thing for FB or to be photographed at all. But since it is, I've been pondering it for several days.
I lived in various states of membership with this religious order for more than three and a half years. Because of FB, I can look in the window every day and see a new glimpse of people I am attached to.
So the picture is an intimate moment. I can't really figure the holiness of the Catholic practice of ashes. Actually, I think, "How dare the male priest hierarchy put ashes on anyone's forehead let alone the pure of heart as I know this sister to be."
Over the past 3 or so years, I've been watching veils appear in these photos. This sister was not one of the first. And she does have lovely hair. You can google the meaning of the veil. For me at this moment, I don't think it adds to anyone's holiness. But I know that young women who might want to be nuns are attracted to orders that wear habits. It is a false notion that a habit adds to spirituality. In fact, I think it detracts from the difficult job of renunciation. Renunciation not of the world but of ego things. The habit and veil are clearly of the ego because the show specialness.
The veils in this religious order show a growing conservatism and obedience to the male hierarchy. And the whole reason I'm no longer Catholic is because that hierarchy is criminal. Yes, even the new lovable saying all the right things pope is a criminal because he continues to harbor criminal priests.
I need to continue to find the holiness and love that this picture was meant to convey. I can easily find the holiness and love in my own quiet meditation, or fellowship meetings, or reading Q's Gospel. But my God is not punitive and I am not a sinner. Humility needed? Yes. But existentially or ontologically bad? No.