Where do we get the ashes for Ash Wednesday? Not from little elves in a secret workshop at the South Pole, but from the burning of last year’s fronds from Palm Sunday; put them in a household broiler pan and light them in the fireplace. Once burned, the ashes have to be pulverized (with, say, a mortar and pestle) so that a mess like this turns into a little dish of charcoal dust to be smudged on people’s foreheads in the sign of the Cross. (Trinity Church, Kirksville, Missouri)

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