Thanks to You And Matthew 6
By Penny Wiegert
Thank you for supporting your diocesan publication The Observer. Our staff is honored to carry on the intention of gathering and delivering Catholic information and inspiration begun by Bishop Edward F. Hoban in 1935. 
February is Catholic Press Month, which is also the time of our drive for subscriptions. We celebrate the legacy gifted to us and work to be able to pass on a good Catholic communication instrument to Catholics today and in the future. Thank you for subscribing, thank you for encouraging your friends and family to do the same. Your support and participation is so important especially in these challenging times. 
Our subscription drive poster this year features our staff. We thought you might like to know that there are real people working for the Church and happy to serve the people of God. And for those who are worried about masks, we do wear masks. For this image that was created with social distance, several photos and the help of Photoshop, we were able to remove our masks for a moment so you could know those who work to bring you The Observer, El Observador, Top of the Morning, the Diocesan Directory, The Catholic Mass on Channel 13 WREX-TV, the Be Reconciled campaign, and other special projects for the Diocese of Rockford and Bishop David Malloy. 
We take the protocols to help keep us all safe and virus free very seriously. And like you, we look forward to brighter days ahead when we can all do our work mask free!
And speaking of protocols, one of the changes made in our Lenten practices seems to have upset some Catholics. I wrote an article in The Observer Feb. 12 about guidelines for the distribution of ashes issued by the Office of Divine Worship. Our office received some fiery phone calls and letters from folks saying they would not go to Church on Ash Wednesday. Some even said they are going to stop going to Mass because of that coupled with their fatigue over wearing masks, having to sign-up, having to social distance, having to sanitize, etc. 
When I get messages like this, it means it’s time to pray a little harder for our Church and our world. Change is always difficult. We have been through a lot of changes in our sacramental routines during the past year, and it has not been easy at times. But our faith and the Mass should be our anchor not our bargaining chip with God. 
As far as getting ashes sprinkled or smudged, it is important to know that the smudge we usually receive on the forehead is a recent practice. As stated in the Feb. 12 article, sprinkling ashes on our heads reflects the biblical practice of reminding us that we are dust. And this practice has been and is used in many other countries as the norm. 
Like many of you, this is the first time I have ever been sprinkled with ashes. I was certainly minus the smudge that started conversations in the grocery store or at my coffee stop. And I didn’t have to explain to the uninformed that it’s not dirt or a bruise. Instead, I have the bits of ash on my unworthy self, allowing me the opportunity to truly internalize the instruction given to us in the Gospel of Matthew.Throughout all of Chapter 6 we are instructed to give alms, pray, and fast with humility and not let others know our actions. My prayer is that the bits of ash I can feel but not see will assist me in the commitment to faithfully live out the penitential season of Lent for the Christ I must feel and cannot see.
And maybe we can all use this second pandemic Lent to practice patience with ourselves, our Church, those with whom we disagree and most especially with the struggles of others. I’ll pray for your journey to the joy of the Easter promise.