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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday lent

Ash Wednesday lent

Today is Ash Wednesday…for Catholics it marks the first day of Lent and a time for important resolutions. It’s a time when we recognize the sacrifice that Christ made for us by abstaining for 40 days, until Holy week begins on Palm Sunday leading up to Easter. On Ash Wednesday, the previous year’s palms ashes are burned and spread in the form of a cross over our foreheads. It’s one day that my husband and I look forward to every year because we feel whole with our fellow Catholics. As you shop the grocery store you’ll no doubt pass by others with marks from their palms ashes on their foreheads and inevitably feel a zing of belonging. Rich, poor, black, white
…we are all visibly united for this day. Beyond that it is a time of peace and meditation. During lent we abstain from anything questionably “sinful” (a retreat of sorts) and spend our extra free time studying the scripture. If we haven’t found opportunities throughout the year, the time is now.
This Lent, I am issuing myself a challenge that I have put off for a while. As part of this challenge I am resolving to both abstain from any “unhealthy” foods and drinks (like sweets) and adding a DAILY fitness routine. This is going to be a “get fit” year for me. I’m also motivating myself to read the Word daily (part of the Lenten tradition) and study it together as a family. Luck and prayers abound!
At 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, a line of about 60 students gathered on the Quad to have their foreheads crossed with ash.

The students were participating in an Ash Wednesday service held by St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in celebration of the beginning of Lent.

The University has nearly 11,000 Catholic students on campus this semester, said Father Anthony co. The Newman Center hosted the ceremony on the Quad so that students would be able to attend while walking between classes.

The Newman Center also held several masses at noon and in the evening. co was one of the priests present at the service on the Quad distributing the ashes to groups of students.

“The point of Lent is to listen to the needs and desires of the heart, which can be found with fulfillment in Christ,” co said.

Lent is a Christian occasion that consists of 40 days of preparation before the resurrection of Christ, otherwise known as Easter. Although attending mass on Ash Wednesday is not required by the Catholic calendar, this is the most attended mass of the entire year, co said.

As a 2005 graduate of the University with a degree in philosophy and Eastern religions, co said he has been a priest for about five years, and has worked at the Newman Center for about a year.

He said the heart craves more than what this world can offer, and he describes the search for understanding Jesus as the meaning of Lent.

“If you go to the Grand Canyon and you look at it, you’re not going to come away and say ‘Oh now I’m just satisfied with beauty.’ The heart just craves infinitely more.” co said. as the students waited in line for the ritual of receiving ashes on the forehead, two sacristans, Emily Pinheiro, senior in LAS, and Maura Schelhammer, junior in LAS, stood in assistance to the priests.

Sacristans are students who work in the chapel and teach students more about the mass. Both said they believed that the visual representation of the ashes symbolized a beginning of something new to many Catholics.

“I think people see this as a good time to make a fresh start, turn over a new leaf. Kind of like a Catholic resolution,” Pinheiro said.

For Catholics, not only at the University but worldwide, Lent is a time to count down to Easter and prioritize the most important things in their lives and in their hearts.

“Ash Wednesday is the start of a new season where I focus on how I can become a better Catholic,” Schelhammer said.
Once the Christmas and Year Holidays are past and we are all recovering from the stress of the hustle, bustle and expenses thereafter, and then comes the happy love celebration of Valentines’ Day. It is no secret that time flies by quickly with the quick onset of the Lenten season which leads us into Easter. And so we honor the traditions of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, which is traditionally a Christian tradition.

Lent officially starts 46 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. The term “Ash Wednesday” comes from the tradition of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes that are used are those ashes reserved from the Palm crosses burned the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The ashes are mixed with oil, made into a paste of which the pastor makes the sign of the cross on the forehead, and saying, “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

With this traditional beginning of Lent, we are reminded of our mortality and humanity as we begin the Lenten Fast. The ashes are also a symbol of repentance, sorrow and humility. Fasting is also a major element of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. What fasting involves is that no meat other than seafood is consumed on those special days in Lent along with abstinence every Friday until Easter.

The three days prior to Ash Wednesday, beginning with the Sunday before, is known as Shrovetide, meaning “hallowed or holy Sunday” ending with “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras”, which is a way of releasing high spirits before the somber season of Lenten.

Lent means “springtime”, culminating with the last three days of Holy Week -- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday as these days are known as the "Sacred Triduum." The focus of the Lenten Season is the cross and repentance. It is also a time of humiliation in our lives when we vow to sacrifice to do without something that is otherwise very special to us throughout the entire Lenten season. The sacrifice may also entail doing something special during Lent that we otherwise might be fearful of doing.

There can be many meanings to Ash Wednesday and Lent from penance, Baptism and renewing Baptismal Commitment.

Our challenge today is to renew our understanding of this important season of the Church, predominantly the Catholic Church year, and to see how we can integrate our personal practices into this renewed perspective.

Lent is a time when we can all look inside ourselves and see what we can do, within ourselves, to improve our lives, ourselves, our well being. We all need a little time to reflect on our lives and ourselves but never seem to find the time we need.

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