Ash Wednesday - 2017
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent. Ashes will be distributed at all masses today:
1:50 (School Mass)
Note: There is no Exposition, Benediction or Confessions on Ash Wednesday.
Reminder - This is a day of both fasting and abstinence.
There will be a collection for Central and Eastern Europe. This Ash Wednesday collection illuminates the way for the people of the region by helping Catholic organizations offer affordable shelter, training for seminarians, pastoral care, and catechesis. Your donation today helps to restore the Church and build the future in the aftermath of Soviet rule. Please be generous to the collection. Visit www.usccb.org to learn more about the important projects funded by this collection.
Fast Days: During Lent there are two days of fasting, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The Church encourages everyone to fast on Holy Saturday as well until the Easter Vigil Mass. "Let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind." (Constitution on the Liturgy, Vat. II, N. 110) On fast days, Catholics should eat only one full meal and may not eat meat. (Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. (Canon 1252.)
Days of Abstinence: Many do not know that the Church requires that all Fridays throughout the whole year are days of abstinence from meat, unless a major feast (a solemnity) occurs on a Friday. Outside of Lent, another penance may be substituted for abstinence from meat, for example one could abstain from television or internet surfing on Fridays instead of giving up meat. During Lent a substitution may not be made, and all Catholics throughout the world are united in the same acts of penance: abstaining from meat. (Abstinence is required for all Catholics who have completed the 14th year of age. – Canon 1252)
―"With regard to the obligatory days listed above, however, there are frequent questions about the degree of seriousness of the matter. The teaching of Pope John Paul II may be simply paraphrased: the obligation to do penance is a serious one; the obligation to observe, as a whole or "substantially," the penitential days specified by the Church is also serious. No one should be scrupulous in this regard: failure to observe an individual day of penance is not considered serious. People should seek to do more rather than less. Fast and abstinence on the days prescribed should be considered a minimum response to the Lord’s call to penance and conversion." – February 2012 Clergy Communication.
A Reflection on Ash Wednesday from Catholic Online:
“Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
Following the example of the Ninevites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told, Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.
Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins ― just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday (Thursday of Holy Week) after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days’ penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.”
For further reflection on Ash Wednesday: