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Why Catholic? Meet Bishop Edward C. Malesic

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Preparing for a meaningful season of Lent

News of the Diocese

February 11, 2021

Preparing for a meaningful season of Lent

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is offering a Lenten Resource Page beginning Feb. 15 to help make the season more meaningful. Included will be a daily reflection from Bishop Edward Malesic, videos, prayers and other resources.

Click here for a special Lenten message from the bishop to the faithful of the diocese in which he discusses Lent as a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Also, Bishop Malesic will have special 15-minute live program at 10 a.m. Feb. 19 to help launch the 2021 Catholic Charities’ Annual Appeal. He will offer a reflection as well as remarks on ways to grow in your faith during Lent. The video will be archived and can be viewed on the Lenten Resource Page.

The popular fish fry listings also can be accessed through the Lenten Resource Page. Fish fries this year will be take-out events only because of the pandemic.

Many people will receive ashes on Ash Wednesday but they may not be aware of the symbolism and history of the custom. It’s the continuation of a prophetic passage from Isaiah, “… to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes.”

This year, because of the pandemic, we can still receive ashes but instead of being marked with a cross on the forehead, ashes will be sprinkled on the heads of the faithful.

The ashes are a way of acknowledging that our repentance and return to God will lead us to the joy of Christ’s resurrection. His sacrifice becomes new life for us and we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

The use of ashes as a mark of repentance is an ancient practice that predates Christianity.

In the early Church, sprinkling ashes on the head of a sinner was an important part of the ritual of public penance and forgiveness that only happened once in a lifetime. Also, catechumens were marked with ashes as part of their preparation for the sacraments of initiation, demonstrating they were ready to die to their old lives and sinful ways.

Other Christians also wanted to participate in this renunciation of sin. The practice of sprinkling ashes on the heads of baptized Christians is mentioned in the sixth century Gregorian Sacramentary. But it was not until 1091 – under Pope Urban II – that sprinkling ashes on the heads of all believers at the beginning of Lent was ritualized formally throughout the Church.

The practices of both sprinkling ashes on the head and tracing a cross on the forehead were used in the past. At one time, it was common to sprinkle ashes on men’s heads and trace crosses on women’s foreheads because they wore head coverings in church. In the United States, the practice of tracing crosses on foreheads became common for everyone. In Europe, as the use of head-coverings for women waned, it became more common to sprinkle ashes on everyone’s head.

Check with your parish for details on distribution of ashes.

At the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Mass will be celebrated at 7:15 a.m., and noon Monday through Friday during Lent. Confessions will be heard 6:30-7 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ashes will be distributed – by sprinkling on the head only -- during Masses on Ash Wednesday – 7:15 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. at the cathedral.

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