This past weekend I joined fifteen hundred concerned citizens, activists and political leaders in New Orleans for a conference to explore ways to get untoward money out of politics and get people to transcend their divisions to work together for the common good. The event took place at Tulane University and most attendees stayed at the downtown Sheraton on Canal Street.
So focused was I on the event, I complete forgot about Mardi Gras. Of course, Mardi Gras day is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, but in New Orleans, parades, balls and revelry begin several weeks prior. Partying aside, there is the practical concern of simply getting around town when streets are clogged with traffic and cut off by parades. On Sunday, my airport shuttle bus driver – a very lively African American woman – could not access the Sheraton, because a parade hemmed it in on two sides. So, she parked blocks away and fetched me on foot. Then she instructed me on precisely when to race across the parade path -- but I blew the timing and ended up marching, luggage in hand, for a half-a-minute with a high school girl’s majorette band! Finally, my driver rescued me while a parade marshal bawled me out. Only in New Orleans!
Mardi Gras literally means "Tuesday fat" or Fat Tuesday. It's the day of feasting richly before the fast of Ash Wednesday. Thus, Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday go hand in hand. (Interesting, there is no mention of fasting or Ash Wednesday on the official New Orleans Mardi Gras website!).
For many churchgoers, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is thought of as Shrove Tuesday and is associated with moderated festivities in the form of a pancake supper. But the term shrove has nothing to do with a party. It means penitential confession to a priest.
I will wait for Ash Wednesday for acts of repentance, which is highlighted in the Ash Wednesday liturgy with the imposition of ashes. (Click here for schedule of Ash Wednesday services.) But there will be a repentance aspect of our Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, which -- TAKE NOTE -- will be at Trinity Lutheran Church, the new, temporary home of St. Paul's Episcopal Church on February 13. And that is the proceeds of the supper will go to support the joint St. Luke's / St. Paul's Youth Group summer mission trip.
This year our teenagers will be serving as volunteers at the Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center in Loveland, who's mission is to provide well-being for people with special needs through equine-assisted therapy. I invite you to join us this Tuesday at 5:30pm to support our Youth Mission ministry at Hearts & Horses. --Fr. Abshire