Sunday, March 3, 2019

Now Don't Forget Your Ashes!

The Great Ashathon

By Juan Rodriguez - DHT

"Ashathon" huh? Despite the true meaning of Ash Wednesday, there always seems to be the great run for ashes. You hear the pews rumble, the kneelers creak, and then off to the front of the sanctuary they run, knocking down young and old alike. It's as if people were running for that 10 million dollar lotto ticket. Well boys and girls, it's dirt on the forehead, not the lotto jackpot! Little do we know that this is irreverent behavior, and can be misleading to every Catholic Christian, both new and old. So why run up to the Sanctuary of the Lord for a dirty forehead? What does it mean to be marked with the sign of the cross?

I use this word that I made up, "Ashathon", to describe this race during Ash Wednesday. I am surprised how many misinformed Catholics place more importance to the ashes, but not to Jesus who is present in the Eucharist. As Fr. Groeschel told us in a conference, "It's like they go to father saying, 'Don't need Jesus today father, just the ashes.'" Catholics who come to receive ashes on this day misunderstand the importance of the Eucharist, in which Jesus is truly present, body and blood, soul and Divinity. They come to get the ashes in a hurry, and then leave the church not knowing that Jesus is coming to be with them. The ashes are used for a sign to begin the forty days of Lent. This is when the Church, together, prepares and participates with Jesus in His passion.

Why the rush for Ashes? 

But this is not to downplay the significance of the ashes. The ashes placed on our forehead, reminds us of where we came, and where we shall go (Genesis 2:7). The priest in prayer marks the forehead of the Christian saying "You are dust and unto dust you will return." or, "Repent and turn to the Gospel." We receive ashes on our forehead submitting to the will of God and to the passion of Christ. We then offer personal and community sacrifice through fasting, abstaining, and almsgiving. These personal sacrifices leads us as Christians through a conversion process in which we develop an interior life. When I speak of community sacrifice, I mean to say that all of us share in the passion of Christ for those forty days. Within this time frame, we as young Christians, with the Church, are slowly changed by the life of Christ.

If I am the one racing to get ashes without instruction, how can my life be transformed to model Christ? You may be giving a bad example of why and how we should receive ashes.

If it's been a long time since you stepped into a Church, don't make the mistake of trying to be holy when you don’t understand the manual (The Bible), or the teacher (The Church), who shows us how to live for Jesus. Jesus invites you and me to share in His trials and tribulations, so that we may know Him in a personal way. If we as youth or young adults say, "We pray to Jesus night and day, and we believe in Him," then why not share in His life, by receiving properly the ashes on this day in preparation for Lent? The symbol of the ash made cross on our forehead gives testimony of who “I am” as a Christian, and where “I am” going - that is to Christ. It also shows our family, friends, and neighbors that as Catholic Christians, we are making a commitment to Christ. That is why we take the symbol drawn in ash, seriously.

Would you go all out for Jesus? Would you share in his passion? Would you like to learn more about the religious symbolism of ashes? Then open up to the family of God, the Church, so that you can understand the religious significance of this Holy Day.

In conclusion, when you go to Church for Ash Wednesday, don't just race up to get your ashes, you'd be a “show and tell Catholic Christian” with dirt on your forehead! But be like Moses, when God invited him to enter into His "Holy Ground" (Exodus 3:4-5), God invites YOU to embrace Holiness through blessed ash. Embrace the passion of Christ, where this race leads you to heaven, if you know and live the meaning of Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

T-Shirts by DHT

DHT T-SHIRT CAMPAIGN: Halloween & All Saints Day have passed, but Exodus 40 and DHT are working on a SAINTHOOD T-SHIRT Campaign that will inspire Catholic youth, young adults and adults to live Holy each day. We need YOU to be the messengers! Purchase a SAINTHOOD T-SHIRT for yourself, your family, friends, youth groups, Faith Formation Program, Youth Ministry, or parish groups.


BE AN ECHO OF THE GOSPEL: Join in the campaign and inspire Catholic youth, young adults, and adults to spread the Gospel. We need YOU to be the messengers! Purchase a BE AN ECHO of the Gospel T-Shirt for yourself, your family, and friends, who are in Faith Formation, and Youth Ministry.


BE AN ECHO OF THE GOSPEL: Join in the campaign and inspire Catholic youth, young adults, and adults to spread the Gospel. We need YOU to be the messengers! Purchase a BE AN ECHO of the Gospel T-Shirt for yourself, your family, and friends, who are in Faith Formation, and Youth Ministry.

The T-Shirt Costs $15 (SM, M, L, XL) / $18 (2XL, and 3XL)

Every day should be a call LIVE THE GOSPEL


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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SAINTHOOD T-Shirts! The Choice of a New Generation

DHT T-SHIRT CAMPAIGN: Halloween & All Saints Day have passed, but Exodus 40 and DHT are working on a SAINTHOOD T-SHIRT Campaign that will inspire Catholic youth, young adults and adults to live Holy each day. We need YOU to be the messengers! Purchase a SAINTHOOD T-SHIRT for yourself, your family, friends, youth groups, Faith Formation Program, Youth Ministry, or parish groups. Cost is $15 (SM, M, L, XL) / $17 (2XL, 3XL) A portion of your purchase will go to supporting a Seminarian preparing for the Priesthood.

Every day should be a time for Holiness!


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Sunday, September 18, 2016

DHT - Speakers Survey

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

There is no way out…

By Juan Rodriguez

     No one could imagine the day when, or how they will die. I sure didn’t imagine “Death” would come for me and my daughter, Liliana. Tuesday, August 23rd 2016 would be one of the worst days of my life.

     Tuesday was my vacation day, and I had a perfect plan to take my daughter, Liliana, to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Liliana was excited. We walked to the 46th Street – Bliss Street Station on Queen s Blvd, to catch the 7 Train. At our arrival, the signs directed us to take the 7 Train Northeast to 61st Street for a transfer to the 7 Train going into Manhattan. We boarded the 7 Train, and Liliana walked up to the window facing the North, she wanted to see her school, as the train was passin

g it. She turned to me with excitement saying, “Look Daddy, St Sebastian School, I can see my school.” She was so happy to see her school.

    We arrived at the 61st Street Station. We can see the Manhattan bound 7 Train, slowly coming into the station on the opposite side of the platform. The car was crowded, but since it was going express to Manhattan, I decided to take it. I told Liliana stand up against the wall, closest to the Train Conductor Booth door. Liliana was safe.

    Doors closed and the train was on the move to Manhattan. Thinking that we would make it to the Museum quickly on the express, the train had to go slow on the express line due to MTA Personal working on the tracks. I remembered holding the pole and watching Liliana as she was smiling towards me. She was using my old “IRiver” device, listening to music. I asked, “Are you ok.” She said with a smile, “I’m fine Daddy.”

     Suddenly, a lady asked out loud, “Does this suitcase belong to anyone?” I turned to see the woman. She was looking around and continued to repeat, “Does this suitcase belong to anyone?” Looking down, sitting up against the pole, I didn’t notice there was blue suitcase was right in front of me.

     That moment, turned from a time of joy, to an unexplainable nightmare. No one responded. We are on a 7 Train, bound for Manhattan, going at 5 miles an hour on an express line, and I cannot do anything. Liliana heard the woman, and knew something was wrong. The Lady could not contain her emotions. Her son said to her, “Mom, relax. It’s ok.” The woman responded to her son in an excited whisper, “Esto puede ser una bomba.” Liliana, and I picked the Spanish up quickly, “This could be a bomb.”

     She reached for the handle, and tried shaking the bag. It appeared to be heavy. Her son tried to open the bag. I had to stop him. With a stern voice I told him, “Don’t be a Champ, leave the bag alone.” I looked him in the eyes, I had no time for him to check something that could be a potential danger. Still, the unexplainable feeling of not escaping, of not protecting my daughter, just haunted me. I felt like the villain in the Twilight Zone episode, “The Obsolete Man”, who could not escape a bomb in a room. Time became his terror. Time became mine! The train continued to its destination, moving at a “snails” pace, and my daughter and I are in front of the suitcase.

     I turned to the door, where the MTA Train Conductor was stationed – I knocked on the door and spoke to him calmly of the situation. His face turned pale. He acted fast and called the authorities to be ready at the Queenboro Plaza Station. That was our final stop. I thought to myself, “Could that be Liliana’s final Birthday?”

     All I could do is pray. I said, “God, I am not ready to die. I’m not finished with Your work, and I want to see Liliana grow.” I looked to her and to the people – all I can say is, “Father, protect my daughter, these people, the people at the station, the law enforcement who will be courageous enough to check this suitcase.”

     I looked to the other side of the car, to see if I can get past the people, but I felt in me a strong hold – not to move since it would cause panic to the people, and most of all to my daughter. In my mind, all I could say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? LEAVE!” I couldn’t. Something held me there. I could move, but I had no will power to even leave that spot. My eyes fell on the woman who called attention to the suitcase; she was about to burst. I had to be there only to defuse her from going off, while at the same time bearing the unpredictable death that could await my daughter at Queensboro Plaza. There was truly no escape.

     I recalled the story of Abraham, where God told him, “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.” (Genesis 22:2) My very being could only answer like Abraham, “Here I am!” (Gen 22:1) Terrible was that feeling. I can now imagine what Abraham felt to hear God tell him to sacrifice Isaac. Was I to do the same for my only daughter? How painful it was to experience those minutes, and yet I had to trust in my Father to care for us all, including my only daughter. We were face to face with that suitcase, like Abraham and Isaac were face to face with the dried wood to be used for sacrifice.

     According to the Catechism, “Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture.” (CCC 144) He heard the voice of God and obeyed. I did not hear His voice, but felt a Will far greater than mine, which held me in the same position. I felt like a fool. In my mind I was yelling, “THIS IS MY CHILD!!!! GET OUT!” But I could not move, only listen from within, with no voice to assure me I was doing the right thing.

     The Catechism teaches us that “Abraham thus fulfills the definition of faith…” (CCC 146) In those moments, I looked to Liliana, and thought with all the terror in my mind and heart – I had to be at that moment the only “definition of faith” for her .I had to trust.

     We slowly entered the Queensboro Plaza Station. I wanted to shut my eyes, but again the feeling of leaving them open pressed on my heart and mind. The doors opened and the people rushed out. I took Liliana’s hand and walked her calmly out the doors. I turned to look at the suitcase. Suddenly, I saw a small woman rise up and walk towards the suitcase. She pulled up the handle, positioned the suitcase towards the doors, and began her exit. I walked up to her and said in Spanish, “Was that yours SeƱorita?” She said politely in Spanish, “Yes sir.” I told her, “Ma’am, we asked in English and Spanish if the suitcase belonged to anyone. You were sitting 3 feet away from it.” She replied, “Pardon me, I didn’t hear it. Please forgive me” She smiled and walked off like it was a great day. I looked at Liliana and laughed so hard! I got back into the 7 Train, told the Train Conductor it was a false alarm. He called off law enforcement. He opened the door and said, “Thank you so much.”

     Was this a set up to test my faith? Was the anxious lady, the polite Spanish woman, and the Train Conductor all part of God’s plan? An inescapable Trinitarian Plan? God, only you know – Thank you for blessing me with that test!