Paging through Franciscan early documents, St. Francis used the symbolism of ashes year round. Ash Wednesday was not just a day.
On occasion, Francis had some unusual practices. He used ashes as a seasoning when eating. Why? Simply, he saw all food’s goal was to nourish us to keep our focus on that which is most important-eternal life.
Probably his most prominent use of ashes comes at the end of his life and is documented in Thomas Celano’s The Life of St. Francis:
“After hearing the Gospel according to John starting with the passage that begins: Six days before the Passover…he (Francis) told them to cover him with sackcloth and to sprinkle him with ashes, as he was soon to become dust and ashes.”
Today as Franciscans are signed with ashes, we pray that we, too, use each moment to see all things in the light of our own journey to eternal life. May we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.