February 22 is Ash Wednesday, when Catholics around the Diocese and throughout the world attend Mass and receive ashes on their foreheads in the form of a Cross.
The ashes are a visible symbol and spiritual reminder at the beginning of Lent. It is a tradition that dates back to Old Testament times, when the wearing of ashes was a sign of repentance for sin, and of humility before God.
Lent is a 40-day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (doing good works for others) – a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter.
When applying the ashes, the priest says one of two prayers: “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
The ashes are made from the burning of last year’s Palm Sunday palm branches. Ashes remind us that God created us from the earth, and that we will return to it when we die. They symbolize God’s promise that even though our bodies will return to dust, our souls are meant to live forever with Him.
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. Here are the full details on our Lenten obligations.