Shane Taylor
Head of Faith and Mission

As we continue our Lenten journey until the great celebration of the Triduum, here is a brief article exploring the role of Cinderella and what might be our experience offered by that great theologian, Ron Rolheiser, an American priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and a down-to-earth and amazing human being.

We enter the season of Lent by putting ashes on our foreheads

To put on ashes is to say publicly and to yourself that you are in a penitential mode, that this is not ‘ordinary time’ for you. Smudging oneself with ashes says that this is not a season of celebration for you and that some important work is going on inside you.

There’s something innate in the human soul that understands that every so often, one must descend, be smudged, lose one’s lustre, and wait for ashes to do their silent work. Ancient traditions, be they religious or mythical, abound with stories of having to sit in the ashes.

The story of Cinderella is an old, wisdom tale that speaks about the value of ashes in life. The name Cinderella itself speaks to this. Literally, the name Cinderella means, ‘the young girl who sits in the cinders, the ashes.’ As the tale makes plain, before the glass slipper is placed on her foot, before wearing the beautiful gown, before going to the ball, before dancing with the prince, and before marrying him, there must first be a period of sitting in the cinders, of being humbled, of waiting patiently, while you are being readied for a sublime joy and consummation. In the story of Cinderella, we can see a spirituality of Lent.

Native American traditions too have always had an important place for ashes. In some Indigenous communities, there was the concept that occasionally someone would have to spend time in the ashes. Nobody knew why a specific person was called at a particular moment to sit in the ashes, but everyone knew that this was a natural thing, that ashes do an important work in the soul, and that eventually that person would return to his or her regular life and be better for having spent time in the ashes.

Lent is a season for each of us to sit in the ashes, to spend our time, like Cinderella, working and sitting among the ashes, grieving some of the things we’ve done wrong, refraining from the dance, refraining from the banquet, refusing to do business as usual, but rather waiting in patience as some silent growth takes place within us.

Lent is a time to be still so that the ashes can do their work.

Rolheiser, R. (2022) Lenten Ashes, Ron Rolheiser, OMI, accessed 22 February 2024.

So, we pray….

Loving God,

Strengthen and guide us in this Lenten journey. The days ahead invite us inward to that silent, holy space filled with your Spirit. During this time, we are called to see our life through your eyes. Give each of us the grace to enter into this time with an open heart and mind. Let your loving kindness flow over us and be evident in our thoughts, words and actions.