of Ashes Marks Beginning of Lent
Roman Catholics worldwide will observe the penitential season of Lent for six weeks beginning Ash Wednesday, February 12. On this day, the faithful recall their need for penance by receiving a cross of ashes placed on their foreheads by the celebrants of the Lenten liturgy.
Most Rev. Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Newark, will celebrate the Ash Wednesday liturgy at 12:15 p.m. in St. Patrick's Pro-Cathedral, 91 Washington Street, Newark, N.J. He will distribute ashes after the homily of the Mass.
Sister Sandra DeMasi, SSJ, Director of the Office of Worship, says that "reception of ashes is the outward sign of the person's inward commitment to forty days of Lent to reflect on their lives, to turn from sin, and to ready themselves to renew their baptismal commitment on Easter Sunday."
Pope John Paul II, in his Lenten Address, asks all people to "reflect on the tragic situation of the homeless: refugees who are victims of wars and natural disasters; families evicted from their homes; and those unable to find affordable housing, particularly the elderly. Lent is a providential opportunity for fostering the spiritual detachment from riches...to treat our brothers and sisters with a practical solidarity by sharing their hardships."
The Church exhorts Catholics to regard the Lenten period as a serious time for spiritual renewal. It recommends that acts of fast and abstinence be used as a physical means to spiritual discernment.
On a day of fast only one full meal is permitted for those between the ages of 18 and 59 years of age. On a day of abstinence, no meat may be eaten by those who have reached the age of 14 years. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fast and abstinence; other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence. Fridays of the year, outside of Lent, are designated as days of penance, but each individual may substitute for the traditional abstinence from meat some other practice of voluntary self-denial as penance.