On Ash Wednesday, March 6, Bishop Richard J. Malone will distribute ashes at St. Joseph Cathedral during the 12:05 p.m. Mass. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the most holy time of the year for Catholics.
On this special day, which is not a holy day of obligation, a cross is placed on the foreheads of the faithful with ashes from the burned palms that were blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday.
Ash Wednesday opens a 46-day season of fasting and prayer. Church guidelines for Lent include, that all Catholics who have reached their 14th birthday, must abstain totally from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent including Good Friday.
Catholics who are between their 18th and 59th birthdays are also bound to observe the Law of Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This practice involves limiting oneself to a single full meal and avoiding food between meals. Light sustenance may be taken on two other occasions in the course of the day.
In addition, all Catholics who have made their First Communion are bound by the obligation of receiving Communion at least once a year. This must be done during the Easter season, between March 10 (first Sunday of Lent) and June 16 (Trinity Sunday), unless, for a good reason, it is fulfilled at another time.
The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. Wearing ashes on the forehead symbolizes the dust from which God made all people. Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.
All Catholic churches participate in the distribution of ashes. Check the Catholic Directory for a church near you (www.buffalodiocese.org/directory).