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Why shouldn’t someone have a sex change? Medicaid funding must now cover sex changes in the state of Iowa. Catholicism multiplies in Nigeria as they fight Boko Haram. A teacher forced her 4th grade student to remove his ashes on Ash Wednesday. Lent is ultimately about the Cross’s call to conversion and repentance; yet, we tend to want to take Christ off the Cross and do away with the necessity of conversion.

Dr. Phillip Chavez of The Men’s Academy joins Trending with Timmerie.

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Originally broadcast on 3/16/19


BOUNTIFUL, Utah (CNS) — On Ash Wednesday, William McLeod, a fourth-grade student at Valley View Elementary School in Bountiful, was told by his teacher to remove the ash cross he had received at church that morning.

It was, she said later, a simple mistake on her part.

Moana Patterson, William’s teacher, said at a March 11 news conference organized by Sen. Todd Weiler at the State Capitol that she thought the ashes were dirt, so she instructed him to wash it off his forehead.

“I had no idea it was a religious symbol,” she said. “When I learned it was a sacred symbol for Ash Wednesday, I immediately apologized to the boy and his family. My entire life has been centered around respecting diversity. I would never, ever intentionally disrespect any religion or any sacred symbol. It was a total misunderstanding. I hope that we can move forward and build understanding together.”

When district officials learned what happened, Patterson was put on administrative leave while the incident was investigated.

“We are sorry about what happened and apologize to the student and the family for the teacher’s actions,” Davis County School District spokesman Chris Williams said in a prepared statement. “The actions were unacceptable. No student should ever be asked or required to remove an ash cross from his or her forehead.”

“The district knows and recognizes Ash Wednesday as one of the holiest days of the year in the Catholic faith and that it marks the beginning of Lent,” the statement also said. “Davis School District takes the matter very seriously and is continuing the investigation.”

At the news conference, two mothers of children at Valley View called for Patterson to be reinstated within the week.

“We’re all human and we’re trying to become better humans and we all make mistakes. … We are here today as a community to say we want to do better,” said Tiffany Ivins-Spence, one of the mothers.

“We apologize collectively as a community that we were not more informed. Many of us were not aware of the Ash Wednesday tradition and the Ash Wednesday symbol. We do now. This is actually an opportunity for progress,” she added.

Ivins-Spence indicated that Patterson had been instructed by district officials not to make any comment regarding what had happened.

“If we throw teachers under the bus and forbid them with a gag order, if they can’t comment to clear up a misunderstanding, then it gets ratcheted up,” she said. “That’s what happened here.”

Later on Ash Wednesday, William was again marked with ashes to replace those that had been washed off his forehead.

When he heard what had occurred, the school district’s director of educational equity, Bernardo Villar, who is a deacon at St. Rose of Lima Parish, contacted the family and offered to re-mark William’s forehead with ashes, an offer that they accepted.

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City responded to the situation through its spokeswoman, Jean Hill.

“We understand that mistakes happen,” Hill said. “The diocese is very grateful to the young student who used the situation to educate his teacher about a part of his faith and its importance to him. Learning about one another is one way we build community across religious, political, racial, ethnic and other borders.”

Weiler said he had invited William McLeod and his father, Gary, to attend the news conference, but they declined.

The Intermountain Catholic, Salt Lake City’s diocesan newspaper, could not reach the McLeod family for comment on this story.


WASHINGTON (CNS) — Ash Wednesday is March 6 this year. Here are some things to know about Ash Wednesday and the kickoff to Lent:

In the Table of Liturgical Days, which ranks the different liturgical celebrations and seasons, Ash Wednesday ties for second in ranking — along with Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter, and a few others. But Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, though it is a day of prayer, abstinence, fasting and repentance.

Top ranked in the table are the Paschal Triduum — the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil — along with Easter Sunday. Good Friday isn’t a holy day of obligation either, but Catholics are encouraged to attend church for a liturgy commemorating Christ’s crucifixion and death.

Ash Wednesday begins the liturgical season of Lent. There are hymns that speak to the length of the season — one of them is “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” — but the span between March 6 and Easter Sunday, which is April 21, is 46 days. So what gives?

“It might be more accurate to say that there is the ’40-day fast within Lent,'” said Father Randy Stice, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship.

“Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days,” Father Stice said in an email to Catholic News Service. “The 40-day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.” There are six Sundays in Lent, including Passion Sunday.

The ashes used for Ash Wednesday are made from the burned and blessed palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday.

“The palms are burned in a metal vessel and then broken down into a powder. I believe ashes can also be purchased from Catholic supply companies,” Father Stice said.

“As far as I know, palms from the previous year are always dry enough,” he added. “Parishes normally ask parishioners to bring their palms shortly before Ash Wednesday, so there is no need to store them. People usually like to keep the blessed palm as long as possible.”

Almost half of adult Catholics, 45 percent, typically receive ashes at Ash Wednesday services, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

You might not have noticed, but the use of the word “Alleluia” is verboten during Lent. What is known as the “Alleluia verse” preceding the Gospel becomes known during Lent as “the verse before the Gospel,” with a variety of possible phrases to be used — none of which include an alleluia.

“The alleluia was known for its melodic richness and in the early church was considered to ornament the liturgy in a special way,” Father Stice said, adding it was banned from Lenten Masses in the fifth or sixth century.

Ash Wednesday also is a day of abstinence and fasting; Good Friday is another. Abstinence means refraining from eating meat; fish is OK. Fasting means reducing one’s intake of food, like eating two small meals that together would not equal one full meal.

“Fasting during Lent followed the example of Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness. It also recalled the 40 days that Moses fasted on Sinai and the 40 days that Elijah fasted on his journey to Mount Horeb,” Father Stice said.

“In the second century, Christians prepared for the feast of Easter with a two-day fast. This was extended to all of Holy Week in the third century. In 325 the Council of Nicea spoke of a 40-day period of preparation for Easter as something already obvious and familiar to all.”

The U.S. Catholic Church’s Collection for Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is taken up on Ash Wednesday, as it has been since its inception in the early 1990s.


Diocese of Orange Bishop Kevin Vann joined physicians, nurses, patients and their loved ones on Ash Wednesday to celebrate Mass at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.  

Ash Wednesday signals the arrival of Lent, a time of repentance leading up to Easter. The Mass on Feb. 14 was held in a large conference room and marked Bishop Vann’s first time celebrating Ash Wednesday at the hospital in Orange. He thanked staff for their unwavering commitment to their patients. 

“Your work is so important to the world in which we live,” said the Bishop, who was joined by CHOC Chaplain Father James Barrand. “I am very grateful to be here with you.” 

Before marking the sign of the cross with ashes on the foreheads of worshipers, Bishop Vann reminded those in attendance that Ash Wednesday is the start of a sacred time in the Catholic faith, and urged them to spend Lent fostering a deeper relationship with the Lord.  

“Ashes remind us to change our lives with God’s help,” he said.


This Valentine’s Day, Catholics will be bearing more than the traditional chocolates, flowers, candy hearts, greeting cards and other goodies to celebrate Feb. 14 with their loved ones and significant others. 

Those who go to church on Valentine’s Day — and they are highly encouraged to do so, although it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation — will leave the sanctuary with ash on their foreheads. 

That’s because Valentine’s Day 2018 falls on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. 

It’s an interesting juxtaposition, as most Catholics who will be celebrating love to mark Feb. 14 this year also will bear a symbol on their foreheads reminding them of their own mortality (the whole “dust to dust” thing). 

And although Catholics can eat as much chocolate as they want on Feb. 14, they are reminded this year to abstain from meat (at least those 14 and older), the fasting tradition that starts on Ash Wednesday and continues every Friday throughout Lent. 

Of course, as many people know, there really was a St. Valentine (officially, St. Valentine of Rome). Although the specifics of his life are notoriously murky, he generally is regarded to have been a priest who lived in the third century. He was known for helping Christians (and for marrying Christian couples) and for being persecuted under the rule of Claudius II. 

Claudius II sentenced him to death after learning that he converted 46 members of a guard’s family to Christianity while in prison, according to an account of St. Valentine’s life on Catholic Online ( 

According to legend, on the day he was executed sometime around the year 270, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.” 

In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint and celebrates his life on Feb. 14. 

He is commonly associated with courtly love, which is why Valentine’s Day drips with romance. 

St. Valentine is the patron saint of affianced couples, beekeepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, and young people.  

And, actually, there is more than one St. Valentine recognized by the Catholic Church (the name comes from the moniker Valentius, a common name in ancient Rome) — so, as a Catholic, you don’t have to celebrate his life exclusively on Feb. 14. 

For example, St. Valentine of Viterbo is celebrated on Nov. 3, St. Valentine of Raetia on Jan. 7, and the life of the only female St. Valentine (Valentina), a virgin martyred in Palestine in A.D. 308, is celebrated on July 25. 

How should Catholics celebrate Valentine’s Day, beyond the traditional flowers and chocolates? cites one suggestion for spiritual practices in the family on Feb. 14, referencing the Rev. George A. Kelly’s book, “Catholic Family Handbook.” 

“Youngsters can ask (St. Valentine) to help them maintain a chaste relationship with those they love,” the online news and information site suggests. 

Father Dan O’Reilly, of Columbia Catholic Ministry, says in an online video that Catholics can use the holiday as an inspiration to care for each other. 

“There’s no reason why we need to wait until Feb. 14 to show that we care for one another,” O’Reilly says in a video on YouTube. “We can send notes or gifts or chocolates to the people we love at any time, and it doesn’t even have to be part of a romantic relationship. 

“We can reach out to a friend and say, ‘Thanks for being there.’” 

Adds O’Reilly: “St. Valentine gave his life as a witness for his love of Jesus Christ, and we can give witness to our faith and love in Jesus Christ by showing our care and love for one another.” 

Justin McClain, writing for Epic Pew (, suggests several ways for Catholics to “reclaim” Valentine’s Day. 

For starters, he says, wish people, “Happy St. Valentine’s Day.” 

For those who love to read, he’s a big fan of “Joined by Grace: A Catholic Prayer Book for Engaged and Newly Married Couples,” by John and Teri Bosio. 

McClain also encourages Catholics to promote a greater embrace of Chastity, quoting St. John Paul II: “Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love.” 

Go ahead and send a Valentine to your sweetheart, he suggests, but make sure it includes your favorite passage from Song of Songs, the fifth book of Wisdom in the Old Testament. 

Suggested passage (from a man, 1:15):  


How beautiful you are, my darling! 

Oh, how beautiful! 

Your eyes are doves. 

Suggested passage (from a woman, 1:14): My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms 

from the vineyards of En Gedi. 

That sure beats: 

Roses are red 

Violets are blue 

Sugar is sweet  

And so are you  



Chicago, Ill., Jan 29, 2018 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News) – Occasionally, the liturgical calendar has a curious intersection with secular holidays.

This year, Ash Wednesday—which begins the penitential season of Lent with a day of fasting, abstinence, and prayer—falls on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day celebrates a third-century Christian martyr, but it has also become a celebration of romantic love, replete with with chocolates, fancy prix fixe menus, roses, and an overload of candy hearts.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has clarified that Lent is more important than candy hearts, and suggested that Catholics pick some other day for paper hearts and Cupid’s arrows.

statement released by the Archdiocese explained that Catholics will not be dispensed from the laws of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday, and suggested that Catholics planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day could do so on Feb. 13th, which is also Mardi Gras.

“The obligation of fast and abstinence must naturally be the priority in the Catholic community,” said the statement.

“Valentine’s Day can appropriately be celebrated the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which also happens to be Mardi Gras, a traditionally festive time before beginning our Lenten observance.”

Mardi Gras is traditionally celebrated each year on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Customary Mardi Gras celebrations include parades, elaborate costumes, and the consumption of pancakes. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, it might also serve as a substitute Valentine’s Day.

Catholics 18-59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Catholics 14 and older are also required to abstain from meat on those days, and on Lenten Fridays.  According to the US bishops’ conference, a person fasting “is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.”


The 2017 Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 and ends with the beginning of the Easter Triddum and the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 13.  Lent offers us the opportunity to prepare for the celebration of Easter, to walk with the catechumens preparing for the celebration of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation and for those of us who are baptized to prepare ourselves to renew our baptismal promises through penitential practices.  In a particular way during Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that “remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit.”

The following practices are to be observed by Catholics in the Diocese of Orange in their penitential practices:


1. It is to be noted first of all that it is by Divine Law that the faithful are bound to do penance and, as a specification of this obligation by the Church, some form of mortification by those 14 years of age and older is to be observed on all Fridays throughout the year. This obligation is in itself a serious one.

2. Everyone 14 years of age and older is bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent. No Catholic will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice. If for some serious reason a person must eat meat on a Friday in Lent, some other form of self-sacrifice should be performed.

3.Everyone who is at least 18 years of age and not yet 60 is bound also to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

On these two days of fast only one full meal is allowed. Two other meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals on these days is not permitted, but liquids are allowed.

Where health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige.


Lenten Observance


4. In order that our love for Christ and identification with Him may be deepened, all Catholics during the period of Lent are encouraged to participate at daily Mass and to receive Holy Communion often; to participate in the devotional life of the Church; to give generously to religious and charitable works; to assist the sick, the aged and the poor; to practice voluntary fast, penance and self-denial, especially regarding alcoholic drink and social entertainment; and to pray more fervently, particularly for the intentions of the Holy Father.

5. Lent is an admirable time to preach the Gospel message of reconciliation and for Pastors to make available frequent communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this way the social and ecclesial aspects of sin and reconciliation may be underscored. It should be noted, however, that at such communal celebrations, general absolution may not be given.

6. Ash Wednesday falls this year on March 1. Easter Sunday is on April 16th and the Easter Season concludes on the Feast of Pentecost, June 4th. Catholics are bound to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, especially within the Easter Season, unless for good reason the precept is fulfilled at some other time.

7. Marriages may take place during Mass and the Nuptial Blessing may be given, but it is contrary to the penitential spirit of the Season of Lent to have elaborate weddings and celebrations.

8. To afford the faithful opportunities for gaining the graces of the Lenten Season, there should be special Lenten Masses, particularly in the late afternoon or evening. The Way of the Cross and other prayer services should also be publicly celebrated during the Lenten Season.

9. There is to be no morning Mass celebrated on Holy Thursday. Morning Prayer is recommended.

10. Good Friday has become a day specially consecrated to prayer and meditation on the passion and death of Christ. Where the devotion of Three Hours is observed, however, it should not conflict with the primary importance of the liturgy of Good Friday. Morning Prayer is recommended.

11. In compliance with (1) the liturgical norms of the Roman Missal on “Easter Vigil” #3, (2) the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts #78 and (3) published Diocesan regulations, the Easter Vigil Service must begin after nightfall (not before 7:50 PM). Morning Prayer is recommended.

12. Those responsible for the religious formation of the young should bring their children, whenever it is possible, to Church in Lent for the devotion of the Way of the Cross. It is commendable to have a separate devotion to the Way of the Cross accommodated to children, insofar as circumstances permit.

13. The Sacred Triduum begins with the Celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and ends with Easter Evening Prayer.



WASHINGTON (CNS) — In more ways than one, Ash Wednesday — celebrated March 1 this year — leaves a mark.

That’s because not only are Catholics marked with a sign of penitence with ashes on their foreheads, but the rich symbolism of the rite itself draws Catholics to churches in droves even though it is not a holy day of obligation and ashes do not have to be distributed during a Mass.

Almost half of adult Catholics, 45 percent, typically receive ashes — made from the burned and blessed palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday — at Ash Wednesday services, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

Parish priests say they get more people at church that day than almost any other — excluding Christmas and Easter — and the congregations are usually much bigger than for Holy Thursday or Good Friday services.

“Virtually every parish that I’ve worked with will have more people come to Ash Wednesday than almost any other celebration,” said Thomas Humphries, assistant professor of philosophy, theology and religion at St. Leo University in St. Leo, Florida.

“We talk about Christmas and Easter as certainly being the most sacred and most attended events during the year, but Ash Wednesday is not even a day of obligation. In terms of liturgical significance, it’s very minor, but people observe it as overwhelmingly important,” he said in a Feb. 17 email to Catholic News Service.

Humphries said part of the Ash Wednesday draw is the “genuine human recognition of the need to repent and the need to be reminded of our own mortality. Having someone put ashes on your head and remind you ‘we are dust and to dust we shall return’ is an act of humility.”

He also said the day — which is the start of Lent in the Latin Church — reminds people that they are not always who they should be and it is a chance to “stand together with people and be reminded of our frailty and brokenness and of our longing to do better.”

“This practice is particularly attractive to us today because it is an embodied way to live out faith, to witness to Christian identity in the world, “ said Timothy O’Malley, director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, where he also is a professor of New Testament and early Christianity.

He said that’s the only way to explain why millions of people identify themselves “as mortal sinners for an entire day.”

Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, thinks the appeal of Ash Wednesday is partly because participants receive a “marker of identity” as Catholics.

The day also has rich symbolism, he said, of both flawed humanity and mortality. He pointed out that even though a large percentage of Catholics do not go to confession they will attend this very penitential service because they “get a sense of repentance and a kind of solidarity in it.”

“Clearly it touches on a deep sense of Catholic tradition in a way few other symbols do,” he told CNS Feb. 17.

For many, it also links them to childhood tradition of getting ashes. It also links them, even if they are unaware of its origins, to an ancient church tradition.

The priest said the use of ashes goes back to Old Testament times when sackcloth and ashes were worn as signs of penance. The church incorporated this practice in the eighth century when those who committed grave sins known to the public had to do public penitence, sprinkled with ashes. But by the Middle Ages, the practice of penance and marking of ashes became something for the whole church.

Ash Wednesday also is one of two days, along with Good Friday, that are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholic adults — meaning no eating meat and eating only one full meal and two smaller meals.

The other key aspect of the day is that it is the start of the 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving of Lent.

“Ash Wednesday can be a little bit like New Year’s Day,” Father Mike Schmitz, chaplain for Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota Duluth, told CNS in an email. He said the day gives Catholics “a place to clearly begin something new that we know we need to do.”



WASHINGTON (CNS) — Ash Wednesday seems to offer contradictory messages. The Gospel reading for the day is about not doing public acts of piety but the very act of getting ashes — and walking around with them — is pretty public.

This becomes even less of a private moment when people post pictures of themselves online with their ashes following the #ashtag trend of recent years.

The online posting of one’s ashes, often marked in the form of a cross on the forehead, thrills some people and disappoints others. Some say it diminishes the significance and penitent symbol of the ashes with their somber reminder that humans are made from dust and one day will return to dust.

Others say that sharing the Ash Wednesday experience with the broader, virtual public makes it more communal and also is a way to evangelize. Those who aren’t on either side of the argument say it all comes down to why it’s done, if the ashes selfies are posted for personal attention or to highlight the day’s message.

A few years ago when this trend was just getting started, Jesuit Father James Martin, now editor-at-large at the Catholic weekly magazine America, said only the person posting knows if it is being done for the right reasons. “As with most things in life, you need a sense of moderation and only a person’s conscience can tell them why they’re posting these things,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

Julianne Stanz, director of new evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, similarly said people should pause and pray before posting ashes selfies, but then go ahead and do it.

She noted that this goes against the notion that Catholics should practice their faith quietly and in private.

“But make no mistake about it: Faith, while personal, is not solely meant to be a private affair,” she wrote in a column for The Compass, Green Bay’s diocesan newspaper, last Lent. “Ash Wednesday is a day when we literally wear our faith on our forehead.”

“We become, on this day, a visual extension of the love of Christ — a love which transcends time and distance, whether in the real world or the virtual world,” she added.

Stanz also pointed out that for millennials — the group most likely to observe Lenten practices, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University — “the digital space is an extension of their world and so posting an image after receiving ashes seems natural.”

“Life doesn’t stop after we receive ashes. We go about our daily lives — we wear our ashes at the grocery store, when picking up our children from school and at home gathered around the family table. Wearing ashes in the real and virtual world is about harmonizing who we are as people of faith. If we wear them in the ‘real’ world, then we should also wear them in cyberspace,” she said.

Stanz told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 22 email that her column “To ashtag or not to ashtag” was one of the most popular ones she has written, and it generated a lot of dialogue on social media and with people who got in touch with her to share their story.

A number of Catholic groups has urged people to post their Ash Wednesday photos online. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had been doing this until two years ago.

A leader at Life Teen, a ministry to Catholic teenagers, which also has highlighted the #ashtag trend, said receiving ashes and posting pictures of them is a way to recognize and share our need for God.

“By receiving ashes, we’re claiming our own sinfulness, brokenness, and need for God, with an outward sign,” said Leah Murphy, coordinator of digital evangelization and outreach at Life Teen in Mesa, Arizona.

In an email to CNS, she said posting Ash Wednesday photos on social media, where so many people connect, is a way to “invite the secular culture to see the church as she is — a broken community in need of a God that can heal and save.”

“Making use of the digital medium simply makes it possible to broaden the reach of the Gospel message,” she said.