Today is Ash Wednesday, the doorway into our Lenten season of renewal.
Masses at churches and schools across the Archdiocese will take place throughout today.
At St Chad’s Cathedral the first Mass of Ash Wednesday was aimed at schools, which were invited to join via the cathedral’s live stream.
Archbishop Bernard celebrated the Mass at 12.15pm and the 6pm Mass will also feature the cathedral choir.
As part of the blessing and distribution of ashes, clergy will make a sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead, accompanied by the words: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
For this year’s Ash Wednesday Pope Francis has made a heartfelt appeal for peace in Ukraine and urged Catholics everywhere to make today a day of fasting and praying for peace.
During his General Audience last week the Holy Father made an appeal for peace in Ukraine, saying that the threat of war had caused “great pain in my heart”.
“I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war,” he said.
Lent is traditionally a 40-day fast — a reference to the time Jesus spent being tempted in the desert.
It is a time when we can prepare our hearts for the solemn remembrance of Jesus’ death.
It concludes and is followed by the Easter Sunday celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
The six-week period (excluding Sundays) is dedicated to prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum.
Ash Wednesday is a penitential service that uses ash to mark the sign of the cross on the believer’s forehead, symbolising our sinful nature and need for salvation.
The Catholic Church usually uses the ashes of Palm Sunday branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service.