Imagine if angelic beings went to school to learn to become guardian angels. They would probably have a lot of questions about the strange things that humans do on earth. They would need to study humans closely and learn the best ways to lead them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. The following story shows how such a class of angel students might react to and learn about Ash Wednesday. Your children or students might just learn a thing or two about this important day, too, as they read about this heavenly class experience.
The Angel Academy
A Lesson on Ash Wednesday
The class of guardian-angels-in-training gathered together for a new lesson. Like all angels love to do, they immediately began to glorify God in song. They were singing Alleluia with harps in hand.
Their teacher, Barachiel, one of the Archangels, silenced the angels so that they could receive the lesson of the day.
“Thank you. Today we will learn about an important day for the Christians of earth. Today we will develop a better understanding of Ash Wednesday so that you can protect and guide your human into a greater love of the Holy One.”
The class of angels put their harps away for a short time, though they were looking forward to taking up their song again. They loved to sing, but they also knew that it was their duty to learn everything they could about the human race so that they could be good guardian angels someday.
“Ash Wednesday is the first day of a forty-day season that Christians call Lent.”
“What’s Lent?” one of the students asked.
“Yes, I am getting there. Lent is a season of preparation for the Resurrection of Christ on Easter. Just as the Lord went out into the desert for forty days, so too do the Christian brothers and sisters make personal sacrifices during Lent,” the teacher went on.
“What kinds of sacrifices?” asked another student.
“They make sacrifices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. On Ash Wednesday they do no eat meat and they only have one full meal the entire day,” the teacher explained.
“Humans and their food. They love food so much. Why is it so hard for them to refrain from eating?” asked a student.
“Yes, you will find that food is a small but difficult temptation for the humans you guard. Even though it is small, you will win many blessings for them as you encourage them to refrain from food especially for a spiritual purpose,” the teacher explained.
“What else do they give up?” asked one of the angels.
“Well, they do not sing Alleluia during Lent,” said the teacher.
There was gasp among all of the angels present there. “No, no, how can that be? How can they give ups such a glorious word?” one student said.
“Surely, this is not a good day or season for the humans. We should encourage them only to celebrate Easter and not any other season. Then, they could sing the glory of God just like us all the time!” another student pointed out.
“Hmm…well, no. You all still have a lot to learn. That is why I have asked one of my former students, the Guardian Angel Shem to allow us to accompany him during an Ash Wednesday Liturgy. You see, the young man in his care is in great need of this season of Lent. Come, let’s go.”
Suddenly the class arrived at a a church celebration of Ash Wednesday. There was a congregation of people gathered there each one with their guardian angels hard at work leading them to be more and more united with the Holy One.
One of the angels beckoned them over to come closer to him and his human. The teacher introduced him saying, “This is Shem. He will be walking us through his work with this young man today. Shem, thank you.”
“My pleasure,” said the guardian angel. “Now, I want to give you a little background on Jonathan here. I’ve got a good one, you know. He goes to church. He prays. He does the right thing most of the time. All in all, you would think my job was easy. Well, he has fallen into a little trap lately. He is the victim of Christian complacency.”
“What is complacency?” asked a student.
“Well, Jonathan thinks of himself pretty highly and for good reason. He’s a good guy, like I said. The thing is, though, he is going through the motions. He is unaware of his many minor sins and how easily temptations can overtake him.”
“So, is that why Christians have Lent and Ash Wednesday?” said one of the students.
“Exactly!” cried both Shem and their teacher, Barachiel.
“Pretty soon Jonathan is going to line up to receive the ashes on his forehead. He will hear the words ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ Now, what I am going to do as his guardian is get him to think deeply about these words. It won’t be easy, but if I succeed he will get out of his complacent Christian habits and make this a really good Lent.”
“Well, what’s so hard about that?” asked one of the angels.
“Let me give you a little listen to what is actually going on inside of Jonathan’s head right now.” As Shem said this he pulled out what looked like a human megaphone and held it up to Jonathan’s head.
This is what they heard the young man say inside his head:
I wonder how long it will take for the ashes to rub off? Who is going to see me with my head like that today? Should I wash it off?
Man, I am hungry. I wonder what I will have for my one meal today?
What did Father say just now? I really wish they would fix the sound system in here. How long has it been? I can barely hear anything. I wonder if people could hear Jesus speaking without a microphone?
I wonder what Jesus wore when he said all this. I wonder if I picked the right shoes for today. It’s supposed to rain. You know it is probably time to get new shoes anyway and–
“Do humans always sound like this?” one of the students asked. “Are they always this distracted?”
The teacher and the Guardian laughed. Simultaneously, they said, “Yes.”
“That’s why being a Guardian is hard. It’s also why humans can’t tell the difference between their random thoughts and our messages for them. So, when Jonathan goes up to receive his ashes I get the extra help of the words of prayer to shock him into clarity. Oh look, it’s time. Here we go.”
Jonathan stood up from his seat in the pew and lined up to receive the ashes. The angels heard him thinking a lot of distracting thoughts, but the song in the background helped him stay focused.
It was finally time for Jonathan to receive the ashes. The priest traced a cross on his forehead and said, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
As he walked back to his seat, the class could see the Guardian whispering in the man’s hear those same words over and over again: “Remember you are dust, remember you are dust, remember you are dust.”
Jonathan’s mind was mostly silent after this. It was as though all the distractions had been cleared away to make room for this one, very important thought: he was created by God from the dust of the earth and to the earth he will return at his death. His heart was being filled up with humility.
Shem seemed very pleased.
“So, did it work?” one of the students asked.
“We will see,” said Shem. “Now, we can be confident that he is pointed in the right direction. We are just shepherds after all. We do not control the sheep. We only guide them along the way. If we succeed, then we enable them to be found by the Good Shepherd.”
“Shem, we appreciate your time,” said the teacher. “Now, class it is time for us to return to the heavens.”
Almost immediately they were back. The lesson had concluded.
“Class dismissed,” said Barachiel. Their teacher left to visit with another class of guardian-angels-in-training.
As the angels there picked up their harps again to take up their song, they looked at each other with excitement.
One of them said, “Oh to be a human! To be able to make that journey from separation to unity with God. I cannot wait to help the one that I guard discover the joy of heaven by first experiencing the hunger on earth!”