Meadville Tribune

Local News

February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday start of Lenten season

2/21/07 — Preparing for the Lenten season, many Catholics (as well as Christians of a few other denominations) will receive ashes during Ash Wednesday services today, the first of the 40 days of Lent.

For almost all Christians, the season of Lent represents a time to repent, sacrifice, fast and pray to make ready for the celebration of Easter. And for Catholics, receiving ashes marks the beginning of that journey.

“Using ashes helps us to recall our mortality,” said the Rev. Richard Allen, pastor of St. Agatha Church of Meadville. “The emphasis (of Lent) has always been on fasting, giving to charity and prayer. Some people may not give up something, but a lot of people have chosen to take on one of these three aspects.”

Perhaps one of the biggest struggles during Lent is resisting the urge to give into temptation. Whether it’s as small as giving up candy or as big as changing a negative lifestyle habit, Allen said that “even small sacrifices change us somehow” and that they “help us to be self-sacrificing all the rest of the year.”

“One problem people have is that they give up too many things,” he said. “They try to make too many sacrifices, so they face too many temptations and they flip. Try to give up one or two things. Sometimes they’re difficult sacrifices, but if you concentrate on them you can usually make them work.”

The Rev. Mark Hoffman, pastor of St. Mary of Grace Catholic Church of Meadville, said another problem is people may not realize giving up something is a process. “The sacrifice will be challenging and they may need to restart if they fail,” he added. “We shouldn’t feel guilty if we restart, because Christ judges by the generosity of the sacrifice.”

And the sacrificial blessings can reach well beyond the Lenten season. Making a sacrifice proved beneficial for Allen, who gave up watching television during Lent one year. “By giving it up, I suddenly had a lot more time during the day for exercising and fulfilling responsibilities I have. It showed me that I should scale back during the year, and it made a difference.”

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