The meaning of the celebration
+ On this day the Church celebrates the “day of ashes,” marking the beginning of the forty days of Lent.
+ “Lent” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “springtime” and is both a time of penance and renewal oriented toward helping us grow in our commitment as disciples of Jesus.
+ The forty days of Lent recall the forty days Jesus spent praying and fasting in the wilderness, the days that Noah and his family spent on the ark following the great flood, and the forty years the People of Israel spent in the desert before entering the Promised Land.
+ The traditional “good works” of Lent are prayer, fasting, and acts of charity (especially giving alms for the poor).
+ The season of Lent ends on the afternoon of Holy Thursday. At that time, the Church enters the Paschal Triduum and our annual remembrance of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
For prayer and reflection
“The dust sprinkled on our heads brings us back to earth; it reminds us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are weak, frail and mortal. Centuries and millennia pass and we come and go; before the immensity of galaxies and space, we are nothing. We are dust in the universe. Yet we are dust loved by God. It pleased the Lord to gather that dust in his hands and to breathe into it the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). We are thus a dust that is precious, destined for eternal life. We are the dust of the earth, upon which God has poured out his heaven, the dust that contains his dreams. We are God’s hope, his treasure and his glory.”—Pope Francis
On February 17, we also remember the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. These six priests and one religious brother gave us successful careers in Florence, Italy, to establish a new religious order dedicated to the Sorrows of Mary. The Seven Holy Founders were canonized in 1887.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.