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"What's happened to his head?"

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William Crawley | 21:38 UK time, Thursday, 18 February 2010

bidenashes.jpgPriceless. Sky News presenter Kay Burley wonders if the "bruise" on Vice President Joe Biden's forehead was the result of a sporting accident. A minute later, after a producer explains in her ear that it's Ash Wednesday and the vice-president is a devout Catholic, the penny drops. Watch it here.


  • Comment number 1.

    And remember, if you're a non conformist... every Wednesday is Ash Wednesday! :-)

  • Comment number 2.


    Such as poor presenter that didn't realise of the significance of Ash Wednesday.

    (Dennis Junior)

  • Comment number 3.

    The Sky News presenter was rightly confused by suggestion that Joe Biden is a devout Catholic - perhaps it's his pro-abortion record.

    In any event - the practice of wearing ashes publicly after Mass completely conflicts with the gospel of the Mass on Ash Wednesday when Jesus says, when you fast, wash your face. It's to remind you of your own sinfulness and mortality - not let other people know you've been to Mass.

  • Comment number 4.

    "I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

  • Comment number 5.


    "Jesus says, when you fast, wash your face. It's to remind you of your own sinfulness and mortality"

    Like I said, every Wednesday is Ash Wednesday! :-)

    (sorry, couldn't resist!)

  • Comment number 6.

    We used to compare ashes and see who could keep theirs on the longest... at Primary School.

    Then we grew to realise that this 'badge of honour' could get you a kick-in from the Proddies, so it was discreetly removed before we ventured out of the school gates.

    Later in life, it became something else again. 'Proper' Catholics would ask, "Where are your ashes, werent you at Mass today?!!"

    Then, as MCC rightly points out, I actually listened to the Gospel, read out in MY language, in English I could understand, "Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn. When you fast dont put on a long face like the hypocrites do. Wash your face, let no one know. When you pray, go to your room and close the door. There, you will be in the presence of your heavenly father. When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing."

    I began to really understand. Its not about doing all these external acts of piety. Its about purity of heart, of intention.

    I began to realise that when Jesus washed his disciples feet on Holy Thursday, he didnt intend for us to copy 'feet washing' during our liturgy. He meant that he wanted us to be servants, to treat others with respect and dignity, to make ourselves last and others first.

    So enthralled was I by this beautiful teaching that, as an adult, thinking, human being, I realised that so many Church people were getting caught up in religious "observance." They were doing exactly what the feet washer had asked us not to do. "Listen!", he begged, "Those of you who have ears to hear."

    So convinced was I that faith is about so much more than external religious performance, that one dark night in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, overcome with the thought of the horrific deaths of thousands of sailors during the war, I was compelled to cast consecrated hosts over their graves. (It wasnt done for show - no-one else was there.)

    "Huh!", a good Catholic criticized, "You just dumped the Blessed Sacrament in the sea!! (Dude!!)"

    "When you fast, wash your face...." Incredibly beautiful stuff.

  • Comment number 7.

    It mightn't have been done for show then, Jellybrain, but you've told us enough about it since I feel like I was there.

  • Comment number 8.

    No! No! No!

    Ash Wednesday was just a coincidence.

    He just had a tete a tete with Mikhail Gorbachev :-)

  • Comment number 9.

    Would NEVER have happened on the BBC..... right?...

  • Comment number 10.

    Oddly enough Kay Burley is Catholic as well, so she should have known better.

  • Comment number 11.

    Jellybelly is quite correct on this. The ashes are deeply in conflict with the teaching of Jesus (and indeed Jesus was slagged off by the Pharisees for not appearing to fast & playing a bit loose with the Shabbat rules). It is ironic that it should have become a tradition in some "Christian" denominations. In fact, it's little things like this that persuade me that Jesus himself was a historical reality, not a mythical fiction, and it is interesting to see how even after someone undercuts the basis for religiosity and mindless observance, they reassert themselves over time - even in a supposedly unbroken "apostolic succession". Human nature, I guess.

    RJB, I wouldn't have given you a kicking - I would have been worried about catching something ;-) Filthy habit!

  • Comment number 12.


    Yip, I got my ash kicked more than once.

    I wasnt overly impressed with my assailants either, who often used to sing triumphantly about the ash their fathers wore.

    I'm not against those silly people who cry, "Follow the gourd!" or who believe that God demands that they should wear one sandal instead of two. I just object when they force this bizarre behaviour on me or on the vulnerable.

    People often say that Christianity has caused more wars and genocides than anything else. (No, money has.) But I cant remember anyone being killed on account of love, compassion and forgiveness.

    I do recall quite a bit of persecution, murder and genocide on account of religious dogma dressed as Christianity though. Now there's a really filthy habit.

  • Comment number 13.

    There is NO such a thing as the gospel of the mass!, it might be good news for catholics "BUT" it is NOT the Gospel of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

  • Comment number 14.

    Could you unpack that a little bit, John, I'm not really sure what you mean there.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think Mr Dynes thinks I was inventing something called "The Gospel of the Mass" when what I meant was the reading from one of the four Gospels which took place during the Mass.

    Just to clarify - I don't think there is anything wrong with ritual, including receiving ashes - my point is that the ashes are to remind us where we come from - "remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return". No harm for all of us, even atheists and humanists, to remind ourselves of that when we get caught up in the rubbish of the day. I suppose if they help remind other people of that during the day that would be okay, but in practice that doesn't really happen.

    I think it's fair enough to think that Jesus believed in ritual - but not empty ritual.

  • Comment number 16.

    Actually, MCC, that is a perfect example of the 'dated' language we have mentioned elsewhere.

    "Remember, Man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return" was replaced with the much more inclusive, less threatening and much more positive message of, "Repent and believe in the Good News." Much more in line with the Scriptures, the Prophets and the historical Jesus' teaching.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think "mccamley" has cleared the matter up for me on that score, yes! Jesus did believe in rituals "BUT" Jewish ones NOT Protestant or catholic in form, nor taken to mean or back up their rituals.

    The Gospel of Christ is clearly... Good News, Mark 16 & 16, & 1cor 15 & verses 1 to 4 and if you are a Believer in THE message you will bring Glad Tidings to the Poor because Luke 4:18 says that a person who has been given the mandate by the Spirit of God to do so.

  • Comment number 18.

    "What's happened to his head?"

    I've been asking that question about Joe Biden ever since he was in the United States Senate. He advocated Iraq being broken up into three autonomous regions with a weak central government. You could hardly devise a better plan to trigger a civil war where Sunis in the middle of the country would be left in the region with no oil and their friends in neighboring countries like Syria and Saudi Arabia would be only too happy to send them arms to fight the Shia so that Iraq doesn't become part of an Iranian Caliphate. Yes Joe what happened to your head. "Say it isn't so Joe!" :-)

  • Comment number 19.

    The ash on someone's head, other than Cinderella, looks as silly as the dogma it represents. Biden believes this nonsense and yet he is second in the queue to press the nuclear button. Put that with the theocrats running Pakistan and India and the world becomes a very dangerous place. Oh... and so as not to leave those very well behaved rational people out, let's remind ourselves that the zionists in Israel have enough nukes to turn the entire middle east to ash.

  • Comment number 20.

    Jellybrain - that is typical of your hermeneutic of disruption. The expression, "remember man..." was not replaced by the other expression - it was simply an alternative but for some reason liberals never like choice, they always want to impose one view.

    John dynes - of course Jesus established the greatest ritual of all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with John 6 - unless you eat this flesh and drink this blood.

    Kerr - yeah the world was great when the atheists were in charge, Stalin, Mao and Hitler - shining examples of good government.

  • Comment number 21.


    "Biden believes this nonsense and yet he is second in the queue to press the nuclear button."

    Scary isn't it? But think of it this way, he'd be willing to push it because he believes in an afterlife. If he didn't, he might chicken out at the last moment when it counts. This was why the Soviets couldn't win. If it ever looked like it was going to win, the US would have incinerated the whole world. I think the Israelis feel the same way about the prospects of being defeated. Many people believe they have that capability of incinerating the world too.

  • Comment number 22.

    post 20...So you do Believe in the gospel of the mass then, why be full of Ambiguity about the matter, at least "Romejellybeen" is very clear about his stand on ALL things so far on this blog.

    Plus your very wrong about John Chapter 6.

    Lastly, I left out one thing, How can Jesus be a "inanimate object", the only thing that Christ does is enter living beings which causes them to do Good.

  • Comment number 23.

    Drill-bit (post # 20)

    Liberals always want to impose one view?

    Lol, it cant even be two days since you suggested that anyone who doesnt adhere to YOUR view should "get out" of the Church. "Remember man..." etc was changed in my church because.... we had parishioners who were women!!

    Still, it was good to see you quote the scriptures earlier and Jesus' teaching on fasting. The more you do that, the more your fetish with empty, medieval, Catholic observance will be exposed for the nonsense it is.

  • Comment number 24.

    Thank you, mccamleyc.

    Small point.... Hitler was a Christian by birth and his followers were without doubt christians. He claimed in his speeches to do the lord's work by killing the jews, as many have before. Stalin trained for the priesthood.
    Mao? I think we both have demonstrated belief systems are negative not positive in world events. Time we ditched them.

    Kind regards


  • Comment number 25.

    drill-bit # 20

    "Jesus established the greatest ritual of all - the holy sacrifice of the mass."

    "What I want is mercy, not sacrifice." - Jesus.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hitler belonged to the same denomination as you McCamley. Mmmmm. Definitely food for thought there!

  • Comment number 27.

    DC #24
    Good point re Stalin training for the priesthood.
    You could make an argument that Russian communism was a weird offshoot of Christianity.
    The communists also promised a perfect heaven, on Earth of course. Loads of cod dogma, with the 'sacred' books and writings, along with revered Prophets, complete with big beards, and a very Christian intolerance of heretics and nonbelievers.
    All possibly not unsurprising, given that the revolutionaries had a mindset nurtured in christian Russia.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Wonders will never cease! I am going to agree more with Chris than RJB on this one. I think he actually has a point here. Chris's initial reflection on the continued wearing of the ashes after the service was reasonable and his understanding of the heart of the service is one I would share: the ashes are to remind us where we come from - "remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return"

    There are days and times when a positive message is less appropriate than one of those bald uncompromising statements of the truth of life which stop us short in our tracks. Lent in general and Ash Wednesday in particular is one of those times. A funeral might be another. In my own experience hearing Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery resonated and comforted when affirmatory promises like in my Father's house are many mansions left me cold.

    There are times for facing the realities of our existence, times for being confronted with deeply uncomfortable and unsettling truths - Lent is such a time.

    It is rather odd, and I hope you won't be offended Chris, but I actually thought of you at our own penitential service. I very much enjoyed it but I couldn't help thinking that it didn't rub our noses in our condition in the way the old service did. I said to myself 'Chris' wouldn't appreciate this but, you know, I was thinking we'd lost something very important myself.

  • Comment number 30.

    Peter - can't resist! Really observant Catholics (Anglo and Roman) attend Mass daily and (John) the services of both Churches contain more Scripture than those of any other denomination I have ever attended. I think we win on the day front: for a Catholic every day is Sunday! I nearly said 'Sonday' but even I have my limits.

  • Comment number 31.

    Come on, Parrhasios, I was working up to that!! :-)

    Every Tuesday is Pancake Tuesday... Every Wednesday is Ash Wednesday... Every Thursday is Maundy Thursday (if I said Monday Thursday I'd hit two days in one)... Every Friday is Good Friday...

    But you know what, only an evangelical could hope to say 'Sonday' and get away with it, or be granted a fools pardon! In fact I'd bet that some evangelical church somewhere has it written on a plastic banner tied to the railings at the front of their building!

    I'm walking on Sonshine! Ooo Oh! And don't it feel good!

  • Comment number 32.

    Over the years I have been to mass on many occasions, BUT did not partake.

    So I can safely say that, I would have to disagree with post...30 upon this matter as I also have been around nearly all types of religious services, too many to name, BUT however! I could easily name more than 3 other denominations whom I would disagree with on certain matters would be totally, scripturally, completely BIBLE based with no rituals and the Catholic Church couldn't hold a candle to, so you see "parrhasios" you really can't say that for everyone BUT only for yourself and some Catholics.

  • Comment number 33.

    Every Thursday I get out my big hammer and helmet with horns on. Does that count?

  • Comment number 34.


    The idea that Vikings helmets had horns has little or no basis in history; it is a fiction, but you put your faith in your myth if you wish ;-)

  • Comment number 35.

    John - thanks for your reply. I wasn't actual so much talking about a denomination being Bible-based, rather only about the amount of what we might call raw Scripture to be found in the average service.

    Morning prayer in the CoI will have two lessons, a psalm, said or sung, and two canticles (generally Scriptural passages set to music): four or five passages of scripture allowed to speak for themselves. A mass will have three readings, one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles, and one from the Gospels with other extracts built into the structure of the liturgy.

    I do believe it is extraordinary how the Bible can get its hooks into us: the text can have a strangely affective power. I wasn't meaning any criticism of any denomination, I was just calling attention to the fact that two denominations which many would not particularly think of as Biblical actually give the Word itself more space in their worship, more opportunities simply to be heard, than many of their more overtly Bible-based counterparts.

  • Comment number 36.

    I leave this thread for a day or two and people actually start agreeing with me - perhaps there's a message there.

    Thing with Hitler and Stalin is, they both abandoned the faith of their youth. And Stalin wasn't really training for the priesthood - he was at the equivalent of a secondary school. Neither of them claimed to be acting as Christians in the way that modern jihadist terrorists claim to be acting as Muslims.

    RJB - you don't believe the Mass is a sacrifice? Do you have any traditional Catholic beliefs?

  • Comment number 37.


    Is this another "genuine" question?


  • Comment number 38.

    Has anyone seen Heliopolitan, last seen wearing helmet with big horns on it and carrying a BIG hammer, last known whereabouts, going to QUB for atheist lecture.

    only joking, hope you are keeping well.


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