The Distribution of Ashes
With Covid-19 continuing to force changes on daily life, there will be a slight change in the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday.
After blessing the ashes and sprinkling them with holy water in silence, the priest addresses those present, reciting once the formula found in the Roman Missal:
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
These words will not be repeated during the actual imposition of Ashes.
Ashes will be distributed by marking the foreheads using Q-Tips for each recipient. Fresh Q-Tips will be used for each and every recipient. Manner of distribution will be the same as we distribute Holy Communion in our church.
A Day of Repentance
The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. In the early Church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned, and who wished to be readmitted to the Church, would begin their public penance. The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.
Fasting and Abstinence Are Required
The Church emphasizes the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday by calling us to fast and abstain from meat.
Catholics who are over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between.
Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Ash Wednesday.
Taking Stock of Our Spiritual Life
This fasting and abstinence is not simply a form of penance, however; it is also a call for us to take stock of our spiritual lives.
As Lent begins, we should set specific spiritual goals we would like
to reach before Easter and decide how we will pursue them—for instance, by going to daily Mass when we can and receiving the Sacrament of Confession more often.