Traditionally, Ash Wednesday and Lent are associated with Catholicism, but that no longer holds true. More Christians are taking advantage of the “forty days” (it’s really 46) today prepare for Easter.
Lent is a time to fast, pray, give alms. Many Catholics will give something up. Sweets, alcohol, meat, cursing, something that is supposed to be sacrificial and difficult. We perform acts of penance, and frequently take part in public prayer, such as the Stations of the Cross, which most parishes will have weekly, often before a Lenten meal.
All this is meant to spiritually lead us into the desert, to prepare us to really be able to celebrate on Easter Sunday with a cleansed heart, open totally to Jesus in the Resurrection. It should also open us to our fellow men on this journey, particularly those in need.
If you have never thought much about Ash Wednesday and Lent, I invite you to consider making it a part of your life for the next six weeks. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself as a Christian.
Should you wish to participate in an Ash Wednesday service, you do not have to be Catholic. You will be welcome at any parish, and you can receive the ashes. As the priest, deacon, or perhaps layperson makes the cross on your forehead they will say “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” or “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”