Ash WednesdayMarch 9th, 2011
And so it begins – Ash Wednesday, the first of our 40 days in the desert of Lent.
One of the great things about Ash Wednesday is that it’s not a holy day – and doesn’t need to be. Churches are usually packed anyway.
Another wonderful aspect is the sense of Catholic identity one has as you go about the day and see other people, those you know and those you don’t, also wearing ashes on their foreheads. (Other Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday, but usually remove the ashes immediately.)
Today is also the day of the first fish fry of the season at many parishes. The Church asks us to abstain from meat also fast – eat only one full meal – both today and Good Friday. The other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat. (The law of abstinence binds Catholics 14 years and older; the law of fasting binds Catholics from their 18th birthday until their 59th birthday.)
In line with the sacrificial nature of the season, parishes take up a collection at Mass today to help support the Church in Eastern Europe that is emerging from years of suppression under communist rule. This collection supports seminaries, social service programs, youth ministry, pastoral centers, schools, church construction and renovation and the spreading of the gospel.
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three cornerstones of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a wonderful opportunity to start all three.