In a tradition that dates to the Old Testament, Catholics across the Diocese of Allentown Wednesday received ashes on their forehead in the sign of the cross, a visible symbol and spiritual reminder at the beginning of Lent.
When applying the ashes, priests say one of two prayers: “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Ash Wednesday Masses were scheduled throughout the Diocese.
During Lent, Catholics are called to prayer, to fasting and to almsgiving – donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.
The ashes, which are made from the burning of palms from last year’s Palm Sunday, are a call to repentance and a sign that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. They remind us that God created us from the earth, and that we will return to it when we die, and they symbolize God’s promise that even though our bodies will return to dust, our souls are meant to live forever with him.
As a reminder, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting, and of abstaining from meat. Fasting is defined as eating one full meatless meal, as well as two smaller meals that are not equal to a full meal. Catholics also do not eat meat on the other Fridays in Lent.