Michael Peppard decided not to explain to his preschooler what the Ash Wednesday ritual means:
Sometimes the gesture is the meaning, and anything I say will make it less understandable. As a case in point, our kid loves watching baptisms, and she has not yet asked what that ritual means — she just gets it, through the different logic of ritual practice. This conclusion doesn’t apply to all, or even most, aspects of our shared ritual life. And in the coming years, our daughter will get more and more explanations of what we do — ways of wedding the logic of practice with the logic of words. But for now, I am learning a new lesson in catechizing: it’s appropriate in some cases to let the ritual be. Or, we might say, to let the ritual do. Its meaning resonates deep in the bones of humanity, deeper than words can go.