Well, Kay Burley apparently didn’t know what Joe Biden was sporting on his forehead; Jon Snow felt the need to explain the significance of the ashes to C4 News viewers. Sometimes our British chums make me shake my head ruefully. Can the old traditions have disappeared so completely, or is this just a metropolitan thing?
Yesterday in Belfast there was still a big slice of the populace wearing ashes, and at lunchtime the city centre churches were packed to the rafters. Over here, Ash Wednesday is still quite a big deal.
However, there was one rather jarring thing. This last week or so has been half term, and as usual schools in the state and Catholic sectors have been working to slightly different timetables. But it’s odd that the Catholic schools would have been off on Wednesday. What with Ash Wednesday being a holy day of obligation, there used to be a huge rigmarole with the children all being dragooned into Mass to get their ashes. This would have been a serious task for the maintained education sector. Scheduling half term so the kids are spending Ash Wednesday sitting at home playing Grand Theft Auto is a quite shocking lapse in standards. At the very least, it’s one in the eye for Caitríona Ruane – how did the minister let that get by her?
I was disappointed, though, not to hear ace Derry educator Mgr Iggy McQuillan taking to the airwaves – at least I didn’t hear him, he may yet have been on Radio Foyle. When it comes to educational debates, there are few things as enjoyable as one of Iggy’s broadsides against the trendy socialists running CCMS and dominating the Irish Catholic hierarchy, who (according to Iggy) are completely in thrall to the modernist educational theories of Sinn Féin and the teaching unions. If CCMS has been caught napping on the job, it’s doubly disappointing when a good conservative critic fails to turn up and duly castigate them. Still, there’s always next year.