ESPN’s Tony Reali on Why He Wears Ashes on TV

Around the Horn host Tony Reali writes in the Washington Post:

I’ve been on national television for 16 years and for all 16 I wore an ash on Ash Wednesday. I am grateful to ESPN and fortunate to work in an environment that allows me to be myself. But it’s shocking to me that I’m one of the few faces you see on TV wearing an ash….

I struggle with the publicness of the ash. I was rolling in the pew laughing (RIPL!) when this year’s Gospel started with “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.” Isn’t that what I’m doing when I get the ash in the afternoon and go on TV a few hours later? Could I not go to Mass after work? I’m still not sure I have answers to those questions. I want viewers to see an authentic version of me, and on this one day that includes the ash.

Which brings me back to silence. A thought at this moment: I do it publicly one day, think about those who are questioned about their faith every day. Those who are demanded to answer for their faith every day. Those who are threatened because of their faith every day. Or more to the point, think of those whose beliefs and life are prejudged and silenced every day because their ash is a hijab or turban or yarmulke or a passport that has a foreign birth country.

You can read the full article here, including his account of the transformative experience of being a parishioner at St. Augustine’s in Washington DC, “the Mother Church of Black Catholics.”