Remember Thou Art Dust

... And to dust you shall return.

Ash Wednesday dust

Ash Wednesday has arrived to usher in the Lenten season. During this time of preparation for Easter, Christians are encouraged to renew and deepen our vigilance in prayer, fasting, and penance. Before His glorious Resurrection, Our Lord first had to pass through His sorrowful Passion. If we would be His disciples, each of us must take up his cross and follow Him.

 It's a staple of most Ash Wednesday sermons, but in our consoomerist age, it bears repeating: Giving up chocolate for Lent doesn't mean gorging on caramel instead. Pigging out at Red Lobster--a company which supports infanticide--violates the spirit of abstaining from meat. We are called to practice self-denial. If your Lenten practices are pleasant, they're probably not encouraging much spiritual growth.

Another oft-suggested but salutary idea for Lent is to take on a new spiritual devotion in addition to giving something up. Resolve to pray an entire rosary each day. Dedicate yourself to at least fifteen minutes of daily Scripture reading. Make a resolution to attend daily Mass or Eucharistic adoration.

And here's the key to spiritual practice I've learned firsthand: Once you adopt a new spiritual discipline, NEVER EVER STOP.

Christians need to adopt a nurse shark mentality to the spiritual life. If you're not constantly moving ahead, you're falling behind. There is no treading water. Stop swimming, and you die.

That's a fitting analogy for a day set aside to remind us of our mortality. The Christian should always stand ready to meet death, which as Christ graciously warned us, comes at an hour we know not.

Far from morbid rumination, Jesus' exhortation should encourage us to avail ourselves of the generous channels of grace He has established and made easily available through His Church. Though in Lent we deny the flesh, the soul can have its fill through the overflowing abundance of liturgies and sacraments on offer throughout this holy season. It would be a shame to mortify the body and starve the spirit.

If you've never observed Lent before, this one is the best time in living memory to start. With a global pandemic on the horizon--or already here--it's a good time to go to confession if you haven't been in a while. Austerity may not be optional soon, but voluntary and involuntary suffering alike can be offered up for our and others' intentions.

Of course, there's a hard moral line between healthy purification and rashness that may lead to self-harm. There is no moral obligation to do something harmful. While every reasonable effort should be made to attend the liturgy on Sundays and holy days of obligation, that obligation is suspended if you are ill to the point that Mass attendance would likely worsen your condition and/or infect others. Similarly, if you are well but going to church carries a risk of exposure to infect people, prudence dictates staying home.

For those currently living in either condition who wish to have some experience of the liturgy, here is a high Ash Wednesday Mass, courtesy of YouTube:

Spiritual preparations take pride of place, but our physical needs shouldn't be neglected, either. To that end, here is some practical advice for riding out a quarantine in relative comfort.

First, Author David Stewart provides a helpful checklist of vital supplies.


  1. Rice – 100 lbs
  2. Pinto Beans – 25 lbs
  3. Condensed milk – 2 cases
  4. Canned Corn – 2 cases
  5. Cheerios – 4 boxes
  6. Kodiak pancake mix – 2 large boxes
  7. Beef Jerky – 24 servings
  8. Whey Protein – 2 bags (220 servings)
  9. Nuts (Various)
  10. Olive oil and other cooking oils
  11. Water – 2 cases bottles plus at least 25 gallons of pure water
  12. Tabasco or similar for seasoning
  13. Protein bars – 2 boxes

The whey protein in particular is an important nutrient source that most people miss. The asking price may give some newbie preppers pause, but once you get past the sticker shock, you realize that a single serving will last you all day, and one container has around 75 servings. That means you're getting all the protein you need for less than 70 cents per day.

Definitely read the rest of David's post for more vital information on supplements, medicines, and sundries you'll want to have on hand.

A final potentially lifesaving tip comes from Jim's good friend on Twitter. Many preppers have been recommending N 95 and P 95 masks to help avoid infection. Major chains like Wal-Mart and CVS are already selling out of these masks, but Jim recently shared his secret means of obtaining these crucial supplies.

Instead of drug and grocery stores, which will quickly be picked  clean by normies, head to your local Lowe's, Menards, Home Depot, or hardware store. To avoid starting a panic, don't say you're looking or masks to protect against the virus. Instead, ask for respirator masks that are recommended for laying sheet rock or two part epoxy. Masks used for those jobs usually have N or P 95 ratings (double check to make sure), and buying them won't arouse suspicion.

That should take care of your basic necessities. It is equally important, however, to make provision for leisure time--which we'll probably have a lot more of soon.

Luckily, the first book in my theological horror series is now just 99 cents! Load up on the whole mind-blowing Soul Cycle for half the cost of a blu ray!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Also important: potable water (or a means of purifying water such as iodine tablets and the knowhow to use it) and a flashlight that can be strapped to your forehead (so you can remain hands free) with some extra batteries, and some thermal blankets (very versatile pieces of kit). Perhaps more suited to an earthquake survival kit than this current pandemic but preparedness means preparedness for ANYTHING that might be coming, not just what you already know is coming

    1. Folks in CA and FL who already have earthquake and hurricane survival kits are probably in the best shape to deal with what's coming.

    2. CrusaderSacren
      A dynamo flashlight and radio is another important piece of gear. You can spin the crank for power.


      Singapore has suspended all masses as of 2 weeks ago until the epidemic has subsided.this by order the bishop primate

    3. Singapore is a tiny heavily populated densely packed island smaller than LA county, it was prudent of him to do so

  3. Alas, some of the things suggested in food supply can't be had by diabetics like myself. We have to stay low-carb if we don't want to end up in a diabetic coma.

    So I'd say, at least, replace the canned corn with canned green beans.

    1. Yeah, that's rough. Any thoughts on how to get around the necessity of refrigerating insulin?

    2. Sadly, no. I haven't the faintest idea how to answer that one.

    3. How cold does it have to stay? In the old days, before compressors and ice boxes, folks achieved some degree of refrigeration by digging root cellars.

  4. The whey protein and pancake mixes are very, very good suggestions.

    I would also add dehydrated/powdered soup mixes and spaghetti and jarred tomato sauce: neither are terribly long term (though longer than many expect) But if you eat them regularly, as many families on a budget do, you build up a stock and rotate it the same way a grocery store does. Heck, if you have room, get some frozen meatballs/meat to have with it.

    One of the keys to easier prepping, especially for people and families on a budget, is stock food you already 1) use and 2) like.

    The beans and rice is all well and good. But the beans especially need to be cooked/boiled for a long time and aren’t exactly the most appetizing thing. And you must remain sane, even as you remain fed. I can boil enough water for my spaghetti with a small gas stove, or if I want to go smaller portions, my little Esbit folding camp stove (look them up; their awesome for hiking/camping/emergency survival). But boiling/cooking beans can take a lot of fuel, in the worst case scenario, to cook through to edible. If you still have gas/power, all good. If you don’t, you’re better off with something that doesn’t need that much time on a burner/fire.

    Additionally, here are some other things I keep in my prep stock, because We eat them enough regularly because we enjoy them:

    -powdered Gatorade
    -Ramen noodles
    -instant potatoes and hash browns (comes in many varieties and flavors)
    -cans of Corned Beef hash
    -lots of Ketchup, in smaller restaurant packets (I save them all) and smaller bottles in case refrigeration is an issue.
    -lots and lots of Honey. Honey never goes bad (see the pharaohs) and it has calories and wound cleaning first aid applications.

    1. Honey and packaged sauces goes a long way to making something more palatable if it comes down to that, like hard tack

    2. Stocking up on food that has a long shelf life AND that you won't gag on is sound advice all too rarely dispensed.

    3. CrusaderSacren

      What kind of beans ate you referring to?
      Kidney beans have been a staple of Mediterranean diets for many centuries. There hundreds of recipies
      Same for lentils and chickpeas.

      Another suggestion: preserving foods. I've had a lot of adult students tell me how they spend their weekends preserving food.


    4. Canned beans, while heavy, don’t take up much space and require much less fuel and water to prepare....and they have a long shelf life.

      Camp Sternos might be a good alternate fuel to heat food should the gas/electric go out

  5. I've never observed Lent before, because I grew up Baptist. Tonight was my family's first Ash Wednesday service. We have been looking forward to it. I hope we can do this right, and grow from it. Thanks for the pointers and suggestions.

    1. A Reader
      Welcome home!

      Pray more novenas.com has a free online Lenten retreat you can sign up for. The Augustine institute is having a sale on Lenten books. The Institue of Catholic culture.com has some other Lenten reflections.

      I hope you find these resources helpful for Lent.


    2. I thank you for the welcome, though I must admit it may be premature. I left the Southern Baptists for the United Methodists, who also observe Lent, probably because there are a lot of Anglican aspects to the Methodist order of worship. We observe the liturgical year, as y'all do, though I think less strictly.

    3. Well, welcome back a bit closer. Keep in mind that many of the formal prayers, Sacraments, sacramentals, and minor rituals were created and used for a long time, to keep our lives structured around God.

      Unintended consequence of reforms and Reformation was the deformation of faith and life, cheerily helped by Lords Temporal who wanted to be off the leash, and diabolical powers who delight in shapeless chaos and misery. A reconciled Universal Church (not perfect, but more coherent) that listens to His teachings is their worst nightmare. We all need to band together against evil.

    4. I think the key word for me is sacrament. I chewed on the idea for a while and realized I could no longer dismiss the notion that Our Lord might have been speaking on many levels when He said, "I am the Bread of Life" and "This is My body." I'm still wrapping my head and my heart around the Sacramental aspects of Baptism. I think that will be a longer hill to climb for me, because as a previously life-long Baptist, believer's baptism was the only thing that made sense. I'm finding it much easier to adapt to the liturgical aspects, to the extent that church doesn't feel quite like church if we've omitted the Gloria Patri and the Doxology. Going to church with friends and family who are still Baptist and skipping the affirmation of faith and the Lord's Prayer will feel really odd. It look me a long time to get over myself enough to learn the true value of rote prayers, but I'm getting there.
      I share your sentiments about the need to reunify the Church. At the risk of being too familiar, I think our divisions and squabbles break the Lord's heart. He can't possibly have intended what we've made of His Church. We will be one in Heaven. We ought to try to get there in this life, for our sake, and for His.

    5. Work like success is totally up to God, and pray like success is totally up to you, and you'll do fine :)

  6. May I add powdered egg whites (baking supply) as another protein source? Kept dry and cool, it has a long shelf life, also useful for camping.

    Homebrew suppliers (stores and online) have a good range of sanitizing supplies, measuring cylinders, etc. to mix and use for santizing containers. Cheaper in bulk quantity, useful everywhere.

    I want a mask for drywall work any way, so excellent reminder!

    Added a Rosary for gym workouts, will add a chaplet or daily reading.

    A thought on abstinence - physically put the money aside from the item, and use that to help pay down debts. $2 things becomes $200 quickly, and you'll notice the paydown.

  7. As a former Red Lobster fry cook, I noted the irony of running up a $100 check there as an act of self denial instead of eating a cheeseburger at home.

    1. Oh, good grief. Talk about buying an indulgence!

      ... and tonight, back to indulging in "The Secret Kings"

    2. "I noted the irony of running up a $100 check there as an act of self denial"

      "Fish on Friday" is the last vestige of Christian culture left in American consumer culture. You aptly demonstrated why the corporatists kept it around.

      "back to indulging in "The Secret Kings"

      Looking forward to your review!

    3. “"Fish on Friday" is the last vestige of Christian culture left in American consumer culture. You aptly demonstrated why the corporatists kept it around.”

      I was so focused on Christians not thinking about the why of eating fish on Friday I missed this aspect of it.

    4. Here's another aspect everybody misses due to the commercialization of Lent: It's not that we have to eat fish, it's that we can't eat meat.

  8. After not going to Mass at all for six years On Ash Wednesday of 2018 I went back to Mass again and have attended on Sundays and holy days of obligation since, and rededicated my life to Christ.

    Lent is important, folks. Take it seriously and God will change your life.

  9. I'm currently a WuFlu refugee. I left China on a vacation/business trip, and now I can't go back. I'm currently being hosted by the charity of others while I look for a temp job in addition to doing my previous job online (for which I cannot collect the paycheck until I return).

    So, of course, this is the first year my Protestant self felt the call to observe Lent, and the thing I gave up was coffee, a substance I have consumed every day for most of my adult life. Some perspectives:

    The struggle to do without coffee has left me sleepy and a little snippy, teaching me focus, patience, and perseverance. Food still has to be made. Diapers must be changed. Chores have to be done. And, of course, I have my work. Tired as I am, it's not as bad as I have feared...yet, and it's teaching me to depend on Him more than I depend on caffeine.

    You have to remember that the point is self-denial, not adherence to a law. Left to my own devices, meatless Friday would probably be fine, but my hosts don't observe Lent. Instead, for the day's large meal, I must eat what is set in front of me, most of it generously donated. Fish isn't common, and vegetarian might as well be a foreign word, so cheese and eggs have been the protein of my own meals while I try to find other ways of self-denial and graciously partake of whatever is given to me. Beggars cannot be choosers, after all, though I have tried to stick to poultry at those meals if it's an option. I can't really put the larger lesson of this into words, but I can say it has been a humbling experience to accept alms, rather than give them, and it also reminds me of my friends in China who can't get help like that.

    It's also been a lesson in God's timing. Had I known what Lent would hold for me this year, I would have been highly resistant to His prompting on the matter. He obviously knows something I don't.

    1. Your response in the face of a trying and heartbreaking situation is inspiring.

      Heavenly Father, please grant the great nation of China healing so your servant can return home! In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.